Feeling Stupid?

August 17, 2009

I am.

Having read a rave review in Gary Giddins’s excellent book Natural Selection, I bought a copy of Grown Up All Wrong by Robert Christgau, who is the senior music critic at the Village Voice.  grownupallwrongThis is a collection of some of his pieces over the past several years.  I am thoroughly enjoying it, although I am not familiar with all of the artists he writes about, or indeed all the words he uses.  I was well and truly cowed by the time I was half-way through the introduction.  He can write like an angel, but he can also deliver up stuff like this:

“… over the years I’ve been impressed by what a burden counterhegemonic expectations impose in a world where the most consciously and cannily political culture – be it Bertolt Brecht or Cindy Sherman, Linton Kwesi Johnson or Bruce Springsteen – remains tragically if not ridiculously superstructural.”

Yikes.  Can’t wait to see what he has to say about the Clash.

Bringing this sort of ferocious intellectualism to bear on rock and hip-hop music reminds me of the Modern Review, a not terribly-lamented rag which was published in the UK by Julie Burchill and Toby Young back in the 90s.  Its tagline was, I believe, “low-brow culture for high-brows”, and it relished applying the critical pretensions of the postmodern intellectual elite to bad pop music, trashy movies, and airport paperbacks.  I always enjoyed it, although the ubiquitous references to Michel Foucault had me running for cover.  In the end, though, the Modern Review was really just an elaborate joke (I think).  I have a feeling Christgau means every word of it.


Distractions and Prevarications, Part 6

August 17, 2009

Well, duh.


Actually I’ve only read the first five of these – trying in vain to keep up with my eight year-old, who ripped through the entire series in two months.  The last one was something like 870 pages long.  Oh, the relief when it was over.

That Old Cape Magic

August 6, 2009

I got my hands on the new Richard Russo yesterday.  Blogging activities may fall off for the next few days.


(It strikes me now that this should have been filed under the “Distractions and Prevarications” series.)

Sexism in the Publishing Industry

August 3, 2009

Good to see that sexism and gender-bias in the publishing industry are alive and well.  Consider the evidence.  First came the slightly odd but charming DANGEROUS BOOK FOR BOYS, which reminded me of an old book that I adored when I was young called, if memory serves, “The Big Weekend Book”, which was a thick, dusty hardback with a mottled green cover.  In it there were suggestions for putting on shows, stories, puzzles, and directions on how to make stones skip across water, start a butterfly collection, and other useful things.

dangerousMy son has a copy of THE DANGEROUS BOOK FOR BOYS.  He dips into it occasionally, although I don’t think he has quite recovered from his disappointment when he discovered that I wasn’t going to be able to knock together a tree house with hot and cold running water and a working elevator during the course of a Saturday afternoon.  Such is his painful lot in life, to have an utterly useless father when it comes to the important stuff.

Anyway, the book is fun.  It’s terribly old-fashioned – not quite jolly hockey sticks and lashings of ginger beer, but not far off – but that is exactly the point, and indeed its whole commercial appeal.  Parents watch their children leaf through it and the accumulated guilt of all those Gameboys, PlayStations and DVDs lifts, just a little.  This is what we should have been doing all along, they tell themselves – at least until their son looks up and asks if he can have a treehouse.

Of course, it was inevitable that those clever publishing types would try and replicate this winning formula for girls.  daringHere’s where it gets perplexing, though.  Did they produce THE DANGEROUS BOOK FOR GIRLS?  No.  Take a look at the cover on the right.  See?  I’m curious about the distinction.  Perhaps these days “Dangerous for girls” means forgetting your diaphragm or leaving your facebook page unattended, and since we are performing a collective leap back to Enid Blyton times, something more wholesome was needed.  I’m probably reading too much into all this – imagine that – but the fact that girls get to be daring implies a measure of finesse that us boys are, by inference, incapable of.  We just blunder off into the sunset, heroic idiots, whereas the ladies have the smarts to calculate the odds and use their heads.  Yawn.  It’s brains versus brawn, yet again.  Well, I suppose if the publishers were trying to be old-fashioned, they were right on the money.

But why can’t girls just do dangerous things, too?

Harry Potter, Book One, Day Four

April 22, 2009

That’s that, then. He starts Book Two tomorrow morning.

Harry Potter, Book One, Day Two

April 19, 2009

Harry Potter, Book One, Day One

April 18, 2009