Posts filed under ‘books’
Sorry about the fact this blog is basically just a bunch of my links these days, anyway reading Sontag’s In America (it’s quite good, but the intellectual conversation she’s responding to is so familar to make many of the ideas trite).
“I can’t help thinking a person who sneezes in an absurd way is also lacking in self-respect. Why else consent to something so unattractive? It ought to be a matter of concertration and resolve to sneeze gracefully, candidly. Like a handshake.”
“And God is abetting all this. This longing for newness, emptiness, pastlessness. This dream of turning life into pure future. Perhaps He has no choice-though, in so doing, God the Star is signing His own death warrant as an actor, as the star of stars. No longer will He be guaranteed the major role in any drama of consequence attended by the most coveted, educated audiences. At best, minor roles from now on-except in picturaseque backwaters, where people have never seen a play without Him. All this moving the audience about will amount to the end of His career.
Does God know this? Probably he does. But that won’t stop Him: He’s a trouper.
God Spits. ”
It’s fucking hilarious, and a rather good summary of the movement away from religion dating around this time historically in the novel to Darwin and a harbinger of Neitsche.
“She wished she were in love, for being helplessly in love awakens one’s better self. But when marriage puts an end to that, it is deliverance. Love makes men strong, self-confident. It makes women weak. Friendship, though… that was another matter. Friends make you strong.”
“You are whatever you think you are… Whatever you dare think you are. And to be free to think yourself something you’re not, something better than what you are-isn’t that the true freedom promised by the country to which he was journeying?”
“The first morning he masturbated to the mental image of a fat brown walrus slowly turning from side to side.”
Clearly she had a deep understanding of male desire.
All qoutes from In America by Susan Sontag
And one from Eno via an old copy of Frieze:
“Saying that cultural objects have value is like saying that telephones have conversations.”
Dan Fox qoutes it from Brian Eno,A year with Swollen Appendices, Faber and Faber, London, 1996
And finally Pynchon, ” ‘Explosion with out an objective’, delcared Miles Blundell, ‘is politics in its purest form.’ ” from against the day
p.s. added amazon referrals to make the blog more long-tail-ish.
One of the bigger problems of criticism, is that it’s quite easy to decipher the symptoms of a music that will cause its decimation, but it’s harder to write a piece of criticism that can actually make the listener listen anew. Marcus, and for that matter myself, fall into the first category. Mr. Marcus is adept at finding the limits of various American music genres nailing them down to specific mind sets he situates with the experience of American culture, but he’s unable to elaborate where music should go and by extension Americans. Some asides are made to Randy Newman, who breaks with the confessional style of the sixties and seventies, and Sly Stone, but for the most part Marcus sets out to explore a body of music he’s a master at murdering. However, regardless of how Marcus kills his subjects, he does so humanely and with a fondness that merely shows that thinking often leads to music falling flat. Mystery Train is still an essential piece of criticism, because it’s heart lies in a mind-set that bands today don’t just situate themselves around, but actively worship with nostalgia.
The bigger problem with Marcus is that the albums he charts his America through had an entirely different impact when he was writing about them, then as they do now. The Band’s Big Pink coming after their electric period with Dylan was another amoebic growth of the post-sixties generation, a time when the children out numbered the adults and their new found trends didn’t just signal next seasons fashion, but a potential swurve in the hippie majority’s concerns. For someone born in the post-sixties generation the Band is just another way for AT&T’s creative staff to pitch next year’s cellphones with a catchy toon (and no I don’t think that degrades the song).
One of Mystery Train’s greater reasons for infamy is simply that Marcus was living through a time when music critics were important and publications like Rolling Stone really did break with literary conventions, but the groups he’s picked often line up with the shocks that radio gave at the time and the pressing mysteries of who invented rock and roll. Greil is great at finding flaws, but it’s really the critics who invert history, who destroy listening, who can re-imagine the music of their times that are most memorable, many of the sixties generation of critics were engaged in the game of second guessing the history of their music as it happened as if music criticism was a game of deciding who would ultimately become important. In the late nineties music criticism differed, and such questions of epic quality didn’t touch upon us, perhaps someone would argue the merits of the most experimental band at the moment or something, but few seemed to be convinced anyone today was making history. The creative process has been taken apart taught in design courses and dispersed on web-logs to the point that we have exhaustion at the means through which a band is attempting to achieve the new. Mystery Train at the very least caught a creativity of a different sort, one of place and alienation with the only connector being the am radio dial. It is, a testimony to the individual and a totem of them.
As a former music critic, I know exactly how he feels:
“the white country music…there was a problem with that music. It so perfectly expressed the acceptance and fatalism of its audience… that the music brought all it had to say to the surface, told no secrets, and had no use for novelty. It was conservative in an almost tragic sense, because it carried no hope of change, only respite. By the early fifties this music was all limits.” Page 17
“Rock ‘n’ roll is suffering from the old progressive school fallacy that says if what you write is about your own feelings, no one can criticize it. Truth telling is beginning to settle into a slough where it is nothing more than a pedestrian autobiography set to placid music framed by a sad smile on the album cover… singers have dispensed with imagination and songs are just pages out of a diary with nothing in them that could give them a life of their own.” Page 105 This perfectly describes Emo in everyway possible.
All qoutes from Greil Marcus
Kafka isn’t about human beaurarcy, but the beauracy of ideas. How they come to operate
and how they defy logic in their own way. He was essentially providing metaphors
for agency before Latour and others were giving birth to them, his novels are about
reaching ideas through the convulotion of institutions and barriers that keeps thinking
for ever really acheiving it’s goals. It’s about arriving.
You Don’t Love Me Yet by Johnathan Lethem
I have a tendency to skimp on novels, but go in on movies.
While I feel a strange guilt (perhaps do to my Dad’s own reluctance
to splurge on my reading habit years ago) when it comes to buying books
and never finishing them, I am literally still swimming in piles of DVDs I’ve never
finished, to sit through a movie I don’t like for 2 hours is nothing compared to
barely even breaching a book I might enjoy. But Lethem’s latest managed to make
it past my inherint biases and into my bookcase, and it was well worth the read.
It’s a romance story set in Los Angeles which takes place between neurotic complainers,
indie rock singers, and conceptual artists.Lethem’s prose strides down the halls of
enjoyment like an arch-conceptualist brisking down his galleries hallways, never caring
for aesthetics, but merely for ideas. Hermenuetics and erotics fuck as one in Lethem’s prose.
His characters are often only softened by their humor their personalities aren’t just flawed, but are written with an almost uncanny exagerration of their features. At that, I get the feeling Lethem understands his complainer and his artist more than his indie rock bands, I can think of few people who remind me of Bedwin, Lucinda, or the vegetarian lead singer Matthew. Their counter-cultural bohemia is almost parody while the complainer is a concept rapped into a very sexy and satisfying enigma (I found myself thinking of myself as Lucinda in the sex scenes). Perhaps it’s merely my own immersion in such rock scenes that blinds me, when I think about it a kangaroo in the bathroom isn’t out of bounds for many I know, but atypical. Regardless, Mr.Lethem (picked up 3 books by him today on sale ay my bookstore) has written not just an enjoyable book, but possibly the summation of a generations’ ennui. Read it, please. it’s good.
Question of the day:
Why are homosexuality and heremeneutics so often interlinked? What gay artists
didn’t employ interpretation as a means of creating aesthetics? and how have they defied
the either or stance of Sontag in relations to hermeneutics and erotics in art? Mapplethorpe interpreted the body as sculptural, but in effect he made erotics out of it, and in one case thoroughly defused the eroticism of homosexuality for the sake of aesthetics. Other examples:
Todd Haynes, Matmos, Wolgang Tillman, Nan Goldin, etc. Counter examples exist but let’s just say for arguement etc.
Perhaps it’s merely timing, but I get the feeling something in
homosexuality is leading artists these ways. The experience of it, is teaching them something about the malleability of identity and the potential for intentionality in places where typically we accept the pre-existing to be standard and acceptable.
It’s good but surprising. Gibson’s previous books work up to a clever use of technology that often subverts or changes society or yeah know it’s a kinda how do all these techno-cultural parts come together type of thing, Spook Country is more about simply a good story that’s climax is surprising simply because it’s underwhelming. Gibson’s riffs on the future of the U.S. Latin American population (he for-sees hyper-hip locative art and Cuban infused techno… both which already exist when I think about it) are interesting and his imagining of the artistic possibilities of GPS are pretty cool too. Gibson continues to take on the ghosts of post-9/11 politics with a peculair gusto, but then again it’s William Gibson and what else is he going to write about. Book probably ain’t worth it if you aren’t a fan (pattern recognition is about a 100x better), but it’s enjoyable.
Joe Daly is a South African cartoonist whose work centers on hipsters and their remarkably bohemian lives. Daly’s work reminds of the better parts of sixties acid drenched comics, but it’s commentary on South Africa and it’s consistent play on modern day traumas (Aqua Boy is briskly divorced from his father and Daly has a heavy obsession with vaginas) definitely make it seem more modern day. Daly, seems to feel his generation of Africans and the olde counter-culture of old have a lot in common. He’s probably correct and Kobosh is probably the best cartoon character in quite a while.
Rutu Modan is one of the founders of an Israeli comics foundation similar to L’Association in France or Fantagraphics in the US. Her work though differs from almost any other illustrator I can think of, her stories are full of pathos and while much of indie comics is male and often sexual, Modan writes charming short stories that deal more with the slight imperfections of the pysche that bother us day to day. Exit Wounds centers around a cab driver (Koby) whose father spends his day seducing women of all ages and one of his ex-lovers (Numi) a well off Israeli who’s a tad ruff around the edges and finishing up her time in the military. Numi is convinced Koby’s father is dead and Koby, who seems to have been extremely estranged from his father, doesn’t care. The two end up trecking around Israel where in they end up finding out Koby’s dad is alive and well it’s a good story. What makes Modan so different is that the story really does center on the minor travesties and heart break of her characters, while many comics dismantle the emotions of the protoganist unless they’re A. performing a superhuman feat or B. having sex with a woman Modan’s palette of emotion is diverse and the dimension she draws out of her characters has depth that even most novelists could use. Exit Wounds doesn’t hinge on a quest for identity or any such higher goal, it merely focuses on a short moment in a couple of young Israeli lives, the influence of politics on them, and finally with the way resolve their own problems. It’s wonderful and well worth reading.