Saturday 11/24/2012 by Icculus

PHISH BOOK REVIEW: A TINY SPACE TO MOVE AND BREATHE

A triumph of moronism, the book A TINY SPACE TO MOVE AND BREATHE (notes from the fall, 1997) compiles a series of essays about Phish and their fall 1997 shows so profoundly asinine that they undermine the foundations of pedagogy, betraying the futility of educating idiots like author Walter “Waxbanks” Holland in the first place.

In all seriousness, one of Phish.net’s most eloquent and respected contributors has written and self-published a book that over the course of 201 pages is at least as much about himself as it is about Phish. And this is a refreshingly good thing. Much like listening to “The FLeezer,” reading Mr. Holland’s opus is a journey that, at times, imaginatively opens the mind and challenges one’s assumptions, not simply about Phish, but about the interpretation of Things in general. A TINY SPACE is autobiographical, quite personal (at times even uncomfortably so), and philosophical, with quotes of passages from a variety of poets and authors and musicians interspersed throughout its prose.

Yes, Waxbanks reviews the highlights of fall 1997’s shows in this book. These reviews constitute its major artery, as expected. And you’ll probably largely agree with Mr. Holland's opinions about Phish’s music from that amazing creative period in the band's history (some of which are on this website in the form of show reviews or Forum posts), as I tended to do. But far from just another book about Phish, A TINY SPACE largely reads like the diary of a thirty-something, MIT-educated, Phish-fan-dad who (for the most part) isn’t concerned about what the book’s most likely audience might think. Indeed, the book insults Phish fans now and then, though we are never maligned as much as the book’s author, who is secure and honest enough to be almost as self-critical as he is self-aware.

A TINY SPACE also unrepentantly criticizes (or snipes at) Deadheads who became Phish fans (like me), as well as the members of Phish, Phish’s music, and Phish’s songwriting, including the song “Bathtub Gin,” which “in all seriousness, [is] one of the worst songs ever written,” Mr. Holland contends. Simply put, every Phish fan -- heck, every music fan -- will find something to dislike in this book. But, thankfully, the point of A TINY SPACE is not about pleasing anyone, but rather “of course” more about “multiple mindframes at once” (as stated in footnote 36 on page 78). The book’s deceit (a Phish book?) is perhaps its most compelling conceit, because if you’re discursively skipping in, out, and through simultaneous, “multiple mindframes” along with the author, you’ll inevitably visit some brilliant places, Phishy or otherwise, regardless of whether you care a whit about Phish’s music in fall 1997 or, for that matter, Mr. Holland.

I have spent a not insubstantial part of my life listening to and thinking about Phish's music. A TINY SPACE -- even if only for moments or minutes at a time -- made me (re)consider perspectives on Phish’s music and history, and myself, in an entertaining way. I hope it does the same for you as well. You may purchase it here, for yourself or as a gift for the Phish fan in your life.

$0.02,
charlie

If you liked this blog post, one way you could "like" it is to make a donation to The Mockingbird Foundation, the sponsor of Phish.net. Support music education for children, and you just might change the world.


Comments

, comment by tmwsiy
tmwsiy Can't wait to read it- bought it a couple weeks ago and has been sitting idly on the Kindle. Just hadn't gotten around to starting it. Perhaps tonight. Thanks for the review.
, comment by Uakari
Uakari Your review makes me want to read it.
More about fall 97 yeah-yeah, and I saw 9 shows, don't
care to read his opus about the tour.
The other parts? New ways to rip on ourselves for this obsession?
Is it really that bad, insulting or shocking?
What the hell did he write?
We already went through all this.
Shoreline-Coventry made us all reconsider. Until the next last show.....
Have a blast at MSG, write us a show review!
, comment by ProfessorDude
ProfessorDude I recently read A Tiny Space to Move and Breath, and I have to say that I couldn't disagree more with the review above. Mr. Waxbanks has produced what is, in my opinion, some of the smartest analysis of Phish ever written. Did I agree with all of it? No, I didn't. But I agreed with a lot of it, and the parts that I didn't assent to were always smart and thought-provoking. Most writing on Phish tends to a product of fandom. It is reflexively approving, lacking in even a basic knowledge of musical history (outside of the Dead and 70s classic rock), ignorant of musical theory, and more about the experience of the show and the scene than about the music itself. Waxbanks has produced a book that is none of these things. He is interested, first and foremost in the music of Phish, and his insights come not from having been at most of the shows about which he writes, but from an immersion in musical history, musical theory, and (in a very general sense) a grasp of modern Cultural Theory. When he uses figurative language -- which is pretty often -- it isn't in the way that a certain rather famous blogger uses it, as embellishment; rather, it's as a tool to help open up some of Phish's complex ideas for analysis. Oh, and while he is a fan, he isn't a "phan." The result is a book that, at times, can feel pretentious, but that offers up insight after brilliant insight; that makes bold judgments that shock you out of your comfort zone; that sometimes embarrasses with its personal revelations; and that puts Phish in a broader musical and philosophical context than it ever gets framed by usually. Not everything in the book thrills me equally, but the bits that make me say 'wow' make me say it out loud on the subway and in the library so that people look up at me and squint.

So, if you want to read Phish discourse that recalls how spun the reviewer was, what the lot scene was like, or that overuses adjectives such as "psychedelic" in an attempt to sound literary, then this isn't the book for you. If you want to read a clever, pretentious, but ultimately insightful and rewarding book that's worth chewing over, then I encourage you to buy and read it.
, comment by waxbanks
waxbanks Charlie --

Thanks so much for the kind words, and even moreso for your honest criticism. You've put your finger right on the book's pulse. ('Music isn’t sound: it’s listening.')

I feel I should defend myself on one charge, though: I don't have a beef with Deadheads-turned-'phans,' only with the parasitic elements that surrounded the two bands at their respective peaks of popularity. Anyone listening close is a friend when the noise comes up. If I gave offense, please chalk it up to a failure of prose rather than of fellowship.

Thanks again --

wa.
, comment by Dressed_In_Gray
Dressed_In_Gray Looking forward to perusing this tome as well.
, comment by whrdina
whrdina If you liked this book- you might love the Diary of Bobby Stoner- its a fictional telling of one guy on Summer Phish tour in 2000. Unlike this book, Bobby Stoner focuses more on the people, stories (and craziness) that takes place on the lot.
A lot of weird stuff can happen to a guy on the road...

You can find the book here.
, comment by kyediggs
kyediggs I hate pople that think we need another phish book. Im here for the music and the music only keep your fucking opinions to yourself. thats the biggest prob with the so called scene and thats why the boys make fun of us cause of douche bags that feel they need to write yet another bullshit book. Who cares what one asshole says. Reminds me of Mr. Miner someone else Ive only read once. Just my fucking opinion and its right hahaha
, comment by TheBag
TheBag What the hell is this? What has become of this site? I'm shocked you could be so incredibly insulting with your review. If you don't like his book, say it, but calling one of Phish.net's most reliable show reviewers an "idiot" is over the line.
, comment by TheEmu
TheEmu @TheBag said:
What the hell is this? What has become of this site? I'm shocked you could be so incredibly insulting with your review. If you don't like his book, say it, but calling one of Phish.net's most reliable show reviewers an "idiot" is over the line.
You obviously didn't read the whole review.
, comment by TheBag
TheBag @TheEmu said:
@TheBag said:
What the hell is this? What has become of this site? I'm shocked you could be so incredibly insulting with your review. If you don't like his book, say it, but calling one of Phish.net's most reliable show reviewers an "idiot" is over the line.
You obviously didn't read the whole review.

Is that whole first paragraph supposed to be sarcastic? Cause that is not clear at all.
, comment by TheEmu
TheEmu @TheBag said:
@TheEmu said:
@TheBag said:
What the hell is this? What has become of this site? I'm shocked you could be so incredibly insulting with your review. If you don't like his book, say it, but calling one of Phish.net's most reliable show reviewers an "idiot" is over the line.
You obviously didn't read the whole review.

Is that whole first paragraph supposed to be sarcastic? Cause that is not clear at all.
Well, the very next paragraph begins:

In all seriousness, one of Phish.net’s most eloquent and respected contributors has written and self-published a book that over the course of 201 pages is at least as much about himself as it is about Phish. And this is a refreshingly good thing. (emphasis added).

The balance of the piece gives both criticism and praise, ultimately describing the book as "a clever, pretentious, but ultimately insightful and rewarding book that's worth chewing over." So, the first paragraph is absolutely sarcastic.
, comment by charliefogg
charliefogg Unfortunately, there are people who will stop reading after the first paragraph.
, comment by ProfessorDude
ProfessorDude @TheEmu said:


The balance of the piece gives both criticism and praise, ultimately describing the book as "a clever, pretentious, but ultimately insightful and rewarding book that's worth chewing over." So, the first paragraph is absolutely sarcastic.
With all due respect, that quotation ("a clever, pretentious, but ultimately insightful and rewarding book that's worth chewing over" ;) is from my review, not Charlie's. Thanks.
, comment by waxbanks
waxbanks @charliefogg said:
Unfortunately, there are people who will stop reading after the first paragraph.
unfortunately the book has more than one paragraph too; those folks would be in for a real rough time, i suspect.

that said, i'm happy to make a special one-paragraph version of the book for them. it will begin like so:

ONLY SAPS LIKE PHISH. FALL 97 ESPECIALLY. I HATE SO MANY THINGS...
, comment by LawnBoy0925
LawnBoy0925 I really enjoyed The Allworlds Catalogue, I'll definately be checking this out soon!
, comment by metawhy
metawhy I'll be glad to buy this book under two circumstances:

1) Waxbanks actually talks about the music on the tour.

2) Waxbanks tells us what the hay his name "waxbanks" means.

, comment by waxbanks
waxbanks @metawhy said:
I'll be glad to buy this book under two circumstances:

1) Waxbanks actually talks about the music on the tour.

2) Waxbanks tells us what the hay his name "waxbanks" means.
the book more than takes care of (1), and/but i'm afraid (2) isn't very exciting. in college i went by the name 'minwax,' for no super interesting reason; a housemate decided one day that my Rich Man Nickname(?!) should be Waxamillion Banks (Goods and Services). 'waxbanks' stuck, not least because 'wax' is a good nickname for a guy named walter.

hope you enjoy the book. :)
, comment by ProfessorDude
ProfessorDude Out of respect for Charlie, I want to point out that my assertion that "I couldn't disagree more" with his review was a bit of shoot-from-the-hip hyperbole. Very clearly, we agree on a great deal with respect to *A Tiny Space.* Where we differ is more in emphasis, and I hope that my comments aren't read by anyone as a diss on him.

Peace

PD
, comment by charliefogg
charliefogg @waxbanks said:
@charliefogg said:
Unfortunately, there are people who will stop reading after the first paragraph.

I meant the review. Best of luck on your book!

unfortunately the book has more than one paragraph too; those folks would be in for a real rough time, i suspect.

that said, i'm happy to make a special one-paragraph version of the book for them. it will begin like so:

ONLY SAPS LIKE PHISH. FALL 97 ESPECIALLY. I HATE SO MANY THINGS...
, comment by TheEmu
TheEmu @ProfessorDude said:
@TheEmu said:


The balance of the piece gives both criticism and praise, ultimately describing the book as "a clever, pretentious, but ultimately insightful and rewarding book that's worth chewing over." So, the first paragraph is absolutely sarcastic.
With all due respect, that quotation ("a clever, pretentious, but ultimately insightful and rewarding book that's worth chewing over" ;) is from my review, not Charlie's. Thanks.
Whoops! Attribution fail! Sorry about that!
, comment by MiguelSanchez
MiguelSanchez It's a fantastic book. I give it a ringing endorsement.
, comment by waxbanks
waxbanks @MiguelSanchez said:
It's a fantastic book. I give it a ringing endorsement.
strange dudes keep making my day
, comment by SconyMack
SconyMack But I like Bathtub Gin...
, comment by waxbanks
waxbanks @SconyMack said:
But I like Bathtub Gin...
only a rube would try to steal that feeling from you

but

if god existed She'd smack you good for lacking taste ;v)
then force you to mainline some duke ellington and some elvis costello until you get yourself correct
, comment by fluffhead108
fluffhead108 Wax (Walter), I bought your book after hearing about from this review. About 50 pages in so far, and I dig it. Glad to see you devoted a solid section to the 11.17 Ghost--my all-time favorite piece of music, from any band.

I've always sought out your reviews here for "big" shows, so having a nice little book (with a great cover and title, FWIW) to have on my shelf is a nice touch. Cheers.
, comment by kyediggs
kyediggs I just wanted to let you all know my above comment was meant to be totally sarcastic and I apologisie if i offended ANYONE at all. I thought the hahahah at the end would make it so it would seem very sarcastic but it did not come off that way and Im sorry. I love this community and honestly never speak negative of anything about phish, the individuals, the scene, and especially WAX. I keep negative thoughts to myself bc well they do know one any good. Been reading your stuff since I can remember. Saw my 1st show in 95 so this group has meant a lot to me since you are all the ones that really got the net started for the boys. thanks DIGGS
, comment by floydwilkey
floydwilkey I find myself seeking out waxbank's reviews both here and on his site. Love his insight. That said, I have read through the sampling posted on Amazon and find myself having to constantly wikipedia references (Zappa's famous question? (still haven't figured that one out), who did Endtroducing) dropped in the book. At the same time he explains who/ what the Disco Biscuits are - as if there are folks who would be into music enough to know Zappa and DJ Shadow without knowing the Disco Biscuits. Kinda frustrating, if for no other reason than I will have to spend the extra money for the print copy so that i can read and have wikipedia up at the same time
, comment by Zhaph
Zhaph First off, a big thanks to Walter for writing this book! I got the Kindle edition a couple days ago and have been really digging it so far. The tours from 1997 and 1998 are my favorites, and the author does a good job of explaining the style the band was playing at that time, but more importantly he touches on HOW they got there from their 1995-96 style.

If you're thinking of getting this book, I would say that you need to either a) be VERY familiar with 1997 or b) be listening to the shows/songs he describes as you read or immediately before you read. Walter does a great job of zeroing in on important phases/changes/climaxes/etc. in each song, but as a jam might go on for 15+ minutes, these specific descriptions can get a little long. Better if you can hear it as he describes it, or just listen to a track and then read what he has to say about it. (Note: this is not a complaint, just a suggestion for those not as versed in 1997 as the author [which should be everyone (otherwise, go write your own book, we'd like to read that, too)].)

My one and only complaint (and this really only applies to the Kindle version) is that there's no table of contents or otherwise any links to the "chapters" on each show/song, and those would be very useful to have. After reading the whole thing, I'd love to be able to skim that list, pick a show/song I haven't dusted off in a bit, and then do some listening and re-reading. Is there any way to push an "update" of sorts and add something like that in?

Anyway, awesome job again! I think I'll be checking out The Allwords Catalogue when I'm done with this one.
, comment by waxbanks
waxbanks @floydwilkey said:
I find myself seeking out waxbank's reviews both here and on his site. Love his insight. That said, I have read through the sampling posted on Amazon and find myself having to constantly wikipedia references (Zappa's famous question? (still haven't figured that one out), who did Endtroducing) dropped in the book.
heh -- sorry about that. i've probably got an unhealthily high tolerance for open questions in my essays. :)

zappa's famous question -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Does_Humor_Belong_in_Music%3F _(album)

endtroducing... is an important album, but that doesn't matter because it's AWESOME. shadow was part of a collective of bay area badasses including Gift of Gab (from Blackalicious), Latyrx, et al. -- you can uncharitably call them 'hip hop guys that white folks namecheck to seem culture-savvy' but Gift of Gab really is one of the best pure rhymers going. endtroducing is a moody atmospheric instrumental album; it's not bedroom music, really, but it has an intimate intensity well beyond its sheer technical achievement. it seemed relevant, as i was writing, because it goes from hammering industrial sounds to groovy sad-sex beats without breaking emotional continuity.

cool?
, comment by floydwilkey
floydwilkey Thanks for the clarification. I will most def seek out Entroducing. If I've heard Blazing Arrow once I've heard it a thousand times. Waiting for my copy to arrive any day now
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Phish.net Login

Register | Forgot Password
Support Phish.net & MBIRD
Phish News
Subscribe to Phish-News for exclusive info while on tour!


Phish.net

Phish.net is a non-commercial project run by Phish fans and for Phish fans under the auspices of the all-volunteer, non-profit Mockingbird Foundation.

This project serves to compile, preserve, and protect encyclopedic information about Phish and their music.

Credits | Terms Of Use | Legal

© 1990-2017  The Mockingbird Foundation, Inc. | Hosted by End Point Corporation