The Russian Connection

The New York Times has an article that misses a major connection between two "hyperliterary" bands: Russia and Tolstoy.

The bands are The Decemberists and Okkervil River. The title of the first echoes the Decembrist Revolt of 1825, an event that, among other things, was the original inspiration for Tolstoy's War and Peace.

The members of Okkervil River admit that their name comes not only from the river outside St. Petersburg, but also from the magnificent story of that title in On the Golden Porch by Tatyana Tolstaya, the great-grandniece of Leo Tolstoy. (I adore Tolstaya's stories -- they are strange, enigmatic, elegant, haunting. Her second collection was Sleepwalker in a Fog, and she has also published a novel, The Slynx, and a collection of nonfiction, Pushkin's Children.)

Why did the Times choose these two bands, and then not mention their Russian connection? Commie conspiracy? Conservative coincidence? You decide...

("But the members of Okkervil River also have a connection to an unnamed town in New Hampshire." "What are you implying?" "Well, you've lived most of your life in New Hampshire." "So?" "Coincidence?" "Yes. I've never even heard their music." "But New Hampshire is a small state." "Indeed." "So you could know these people." "I don't. And they're in Oregon or someplace now." "You have a friend in Oregon." "That doesn't mean anything. I have friends all over." "A network of people you know?" "Well, not exactly. And they don't all know each other, so 'network' isn't--" "Separate cells of friends, then? All connected to you?" "Yes, but--" "Did you vote for George Bush in the last election?" "No, I--" "Would you mind coming with us for a bit of ... questioning?" "What? You're paranoid, I'm--" "Paranoid? We're paranoid?" [END OF TRANSMISSION])


  1. thanks for the link to the article, Matt. huge Decemberists fan here. i think the Russian connection, though worth a mention, is mostly concidential. there are only a few other "hyperliterary" bands in the indie/mainstream scene today (i like the phrase, btw, first i've heard it) and the two they chose are worth the praise.

  2. And I listen to the Decemberists and I have the same first name as Tolstoy's wife. You better start watching out for those radio mice in your cereal . . .


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