All seasons are spring in the media, only we call them "quarters." Yet, each year, a few weeks into the start of the second one (aka the fourth full moon after the winter solstice), there is indeed an extra emphasis on renewal. No eggs, but I bet you've noticed a few more subscription cards than usual. There's that little jump in ad pages, presaging the inevitable bounty of the summer preview double issue. Like baby birds pushed from the nest, every year at this time writers are sent out on book tours.
Observe the convergence. On Monday, novelist Robert Stone will read from Damascus Gate, his literary thriller about religious mania (hey that's weird?I was just talking about religion) in Israel during the Intifada, at the 92nd St. Y. Stone is one of the few American writers who can actually pull off the whole literary thriller thing?gripping Damascus Gate rings penetratingly true. (4/24, with Aleksandar Tisma, 8 p.m., 1395 Lexington Ave. at 92nd St., 996-1100, $12.) The same night, across town at about the same time, science reporter Malcolm Gladwell reads from his new book The Tipping Point. Gladwell is one of the few New Yorker writers who never turns in a dud. In just the last year or so, he did a great story on the ways in which the Internet is not changing the world of work, one on the gaping holes in the very popular child-development theories that put all the emphasis on the infant years and, just a few weeks ago, an equally thought-provoking piece about the pill. The Tipping Point is based on a New Yorker feature from a few years ago, about what makes a social trend (hey, I was just talking about social trends) an epidemic. (4/24, 7:30 p.m., at the Upper West Side Barnes & Noble, 2289 B'way at 82nd St., 362-8835, free.)
And! On again the same night (though a bit earlier this time) Dave Eggers is up at Columbia. The author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius will appear in his capacity as the editor and founder of the only good literary journal, McSweeney's. It's a panel discussion on small magazines, also featuring editors from The Baffler, Fence and Open City. It'll probably be a snooze. It's funny, though, that Columbia's National Arts Journalism Program would even host Eggers, seeing as he accomplished so much more in arts journalism than anyone who ever attended arts journalism school, ever. Aren't Ivy League J-school grads the people who had the future bestseller doing celebrity profiles and those asinine "Dubious Achievement Awards" when he worked at Esquire? What's next, an honorary Yale MFA for the state-college-educated author whose book (hilarious, harrowing, masterfully precise, like a modern version of Knut Hamsun's Hunger except that it won't be so overlooked 100 years later) kicks unmitigated ass over the last zillion overhyped first books by young writers from prestigious writing programs? Judging from the one time I talked with him, I'd guess the guy is too gracious and kind to even think of pointing out such cruel ironies. Seems obvious to me, though. (4/24, 6:30 p.m., at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, 116 St. at B'way, 3rd fl., 854-1912, free.)
Incredibly, another creator of a recent, first-person work of staggering genius, in its own way as singular in style and courageously generous as Eggers' book, also comes in to play this week. And yet again the action arrives Monday. I'm talking about rapper MF Doom, who's scheduled to perform at Wetlands that night. I've listened to this guy's album (Operation: Doomsday, available for purchase at Fat Beats or at www.sandboxautomatic.com/testcd.html) so many times even my girlfriend has some of its lyrics memorized. I tell her the MF stands for "My Friend." It can't be helped, thinking of him as such, because this veteran MC's personality comes through so powerfully in his music. To hear Doom is to know him. He's found a voice and a mode of humor that allows him to show as much of himself to the public as most people only reveal to intimates, all without ever ceasing to entertain. MF's exhibitionism is carried out so poetically it makes loving him inevitable?once you get to know him. (4/24, 161 Hudson St. at Laight St., 386-3600, $10.)
Now, for balance, some events that aren't happening on Monday: Sammy Sosa is sure to knock a few out of Shea when the Cubs visit the Mets, Friday at 7:10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 1:10 p.m. (4/21-23, at Shea Stadium, 123-01 Roosevelt Ave., Flushing, 718-507-8499, $12-$37.) The Atlantic Avenue Tunnel Tour, postponed from March 25, will be given Saturday (4/22). The Atlantic Ave. subway tunnel, open to the public but two days per year, is the world's oldest subway tunnel. It was built in 1841 and had been sealed shut for more than a century when rediscovered, in 1985. (718-875-8993 to reserve a place, $15, $10 kids.) Speaking of the Brooklyn underground, Pumpkinhead and the rest of OBS will be among the performers ushering in the new dawn at Wednesday's "Age of Aquarius 2000" hiphop showcase, along with the Dwellas and Juggaknotz. (4/19, at Lion's Den, 214 Sullivan St., betw. Bleecker & W. 3rd St., 726-2606, $15, $10 before 10 p.m.)
The CD of the week is Tony Touch's brand-new The Piece Maker (Tommy Boy), on which the great mixtape DJ presents new tracks by Gang Starr, Wu-Tang, De La Soul with Mos Def (rapping in Spanish?what can't that guy do?), the trios of Xzibit, Tash and Defari and Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap and KRS-One, and others. There are a few weak links, but most of the album is banging, slamming?whatever you call beats that, when you hear them pumping out of a car, make you say, "My, how raucous! How disruptive!" or whatever it is you say.
As any maniacally authoritative, hiphop-hating, cloistered old commie critic will tell you, whiteboys' attraction to black pop culture is rooted in rapacious exploitation and repressed homosexuality. Meanwhile, back in the 21st century, there's a good romantic comedy by a promising young writer-director opening this Friday (4/21). Gina Price-Bythewood's Love and Basketball works off the When Harry Met Sally model?it's very sweet, then earnest, featuring some excellent period costumes, period music?plus the added attraction of excellent hoop scenes. It's too long, just like every movie released since Titanic. What really puts Love and Basketball over the top is the acting, especially by young women Sanaa Lathan and Kyla Pratt, who play the female lead at different ages. Omar Epps plays the male lead, named Quincy and called Q, in an apparent tribute to Juice. It's a decent date movie. (I must mention that High Fidelity, which I predicted would completely suck, is also a workable Gen-X date movie with some excellent period hair. So I was wrong. High Fidelity's makers should learn from Love and Basketball's, though, that if you're going to make a movie about devotion to a pop form, you'd better get every detail right. John Cusack's character has a view of music history better befitting someone about decade older than he's supposed to be, because High Fidelity's author is that much older. Sloppy. But the record store clerks are perfect.)
Now, in deference to the "stick to your own kind" crowd, here are some picks for so-called white music in town this week, starting with one courtesy of New York Press managing editor Lisa Kearns:
"Bob's Drive-In was formed in 1986 by New York Press contributor Bob Riedel and his wife Cris, featured local musicmakers (including Jeremy Tepper, Helmet's Henry Bogdan) and friends as guests and operated under the theory that a good tune can withstand just about any arrangement. Bob Dylan caught the act once. They've performed at P.S. 122 and Lonestar Roadhouse, but their first longterm spot was at the original Dixon Place on E. 1st St. After a nine-year idling period outside of NYC, they're reuniting Monday for a benefit for Dixon Place at its new space. This time around, nine-year-old son Sam steps up on horns. God knows who else will drive in." (4/24, 8 p.m., 309 E. 26th St. at 2nd Ave., 532-1546, $12 or TDF.)
And here's one from Heimytown correspondent Ben Sisario:
"I can't think of many bands worse than the Danielson Famile, whose religious-cult shtick is appealing only before they open their mouths and who sing very obvious and unfunny satires of upright Bible Belt catechisms in squeaky Mickey Mouse voices. But it's worth suffering them in one context: Weird N.J. They're playing as part of 'A Night of South Jersey Song' Saturday at the Knitting Factory, sponsored by the magazine that has, for 10 years and nine issues now, celebrated and documented Jersey oddities like the eternal (sub)urban myth of Midgetville. Also on the bill are Dan Zimmerman, Father Lenny and Ladytron." (4/22, 74 Leonard St., betw. Church St. & B'way, 219-3055, $8. Weird NJ website is www.weirdnj.com.)
And I want to mention the mighty, whitey Melvins, who play Bowery Ballroom on Tuesday. A more deeply, spiritually humorous heavy rock experience than the one this legendary band provides is something you will not find. (4/25, 6 Delancey St. at Bowery, 260-2111, $12.)
Happy rebirth. Don't miss your ritual observance, whatever it may be. The NBA playoffs are scheduled to start Saturday (4/22) with the Knicks (as of this writing) scheduled to face the all-veterans-but-two team from Toronto, including such noted Raptors as Charles "Knick-dissed" Oakley and Vince "next Jordan" Carter. Indie rockers need the new Elliott Smith album, Figure 8, in stores as of Tuesday, 4/18. It's not on the level of the last two albums he made before signing to DreamWorks, and that's not just because of all the instrumentation and production (whole lush string sections this time). It's just that an Either/Or comes along once in a decade. Smith's still bringing great songs, though. The great Edie Falco, who plays Carmela Soprano, can be seen in a new indie film about indie film (can't have enough of those), Overnight Sensation. It'll be screened on Wednesday to open this week's second-annual Lower East Side Film Festival. (4/19, 8 p.m., at the Pioneer Theater, 155 E. 3rd St. at Ave. A, $10. See www.nylesff or call 358-3557 for more festival info.) And Film Forum unveils its new print of Kubrick's most rarely screened epic, Barry Lyndon, on Friday, initiating a weeklong run. (4/21-27, 209 W. Houston St., betw. 6th Ave. & Varick St., 727-8110.)