a Project of the Mockingbird Foundation


Posted 4 years ago by Icculus - 30 comments Link:

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’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.


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tmwsiy Staff Reply
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.
Score: 1
Uakari Reply
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!
Score: 1
ProfessorDude Reply
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.
Score: 7
waxbanks Reply
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 isnít sound: itís 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 --

Score: 9
Dressed_In_Gray Reply
Dressed_In_Gray Looking forward to perusing this tome as well.
Score: 0
whrdina Reply
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.
Score: 0

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