Thackeray's snippet is first. Suitably tiny and weirdly entertaining: "Every now and then, at a trip of the horse, a disguised lady's maid, with a canThackeray's snippet is first. Suitably tiny and weirdly entertaining: "Every now and then, at a trip of the horse, a disguised lady's maid, with a canary bird in her lap, and a vast anxiety about her best bonnet in the bandbox, begins to scream; at which the car-boy grins, and rattles down the hill only the quicker" (10) is translated "Ab und zu stolpert das Pferd, und dann stößt die inkognito reisende Kammerzofe, die einen Kanarienvogel auf dem Schoß hält und sich wegen ihrer guten Haube in der Hutschachtel große Sorgen macht , spitze Schreie aus ; worauf der Kutscher grinst und den Berg nur um so schneller hinunterrattert" (11). Hardcore.
O'Faolain's "The Kitchen" is a sweet memory of his mom. "grumbling and growling" (24) is "murrend und knurrend" (25), "like a moustache" (30) is "wie ein Schnurrbart" (31), and "foxy eyes" (32) is "fuchsigen Augen" (33). Soon after, his "A Lovely Creation" is a nice snapshot of Dublin. "a lovely artificial, sophisticated, deliberate creation" (42) is "eine wunderbar kunstvolle, durchdachte, planvolle Schöpfung" (43). Various subjects clip by nicely, Gaelic language to Dublin as a city, all about the cultural import of Ireland.
Ethel Mannin's "Galway" (did you know Chekhov is spelled Tschechow? "darlin'" is translated "reizende"?) and Edna O'Brien's "Tough Men" ("Being home on holidays, Ryan did nothing but hatch in houses, drink tea, and click girls in the evening" (70) is "Da er Ferien hatte, tat Ryan sowieso kaum etwas anderes als bei den Leuten zu hocken, Tee zu trinken und abends mit Mädchen zu schäkern" (71) both show some feminist grit. I'll admit I still don't know what a "mountainy man" is, even though it's translated "Bergbauer" [mountain farmer?]. Shearman's "Ulster" introduces Troubles in a sense, and O'Beirne clarifies it to religion ("Kick the Pope" is a song title translated as "Ein Fußtritt für den Papst").
Did you know "famine" was "Hungersnot"? Nothing much to the rest, but I guess having that last piece -- Lord Dunsany's "The Widow Flynn's Apple Tree", court transcript of a guy who claims he was transformed to a goose by Celtic witchcraft -- maintains some charm from all of them. Long quirky conclusion but apt as always?...more
Aesthetic philosophy, sometimes obscure (frequently, surprisingly, in the shorter, airier essays) but often quite sharp (especially in the heavier "OnAesthetic philosophy, sometimes obscure (frequently, surprisingly, in the shorter, airier essays) but often quite sharp (especially in the heavier "On Photography" in the middle, in which Sontag's whole book has a reading). The famous essay "Why Look at Animals?" is one that I think quite easily, flatly betrays itself, though: such a broad subject -- humans subjugating animals, to "see" them, to "say they've looked at" them, to witness something (even though nothing real might be witnessed but only the artificial 'sabotaged' by a passive object, etc.), to subconsciously effect some disingenuous surreality -- and so annoyingly, incoherently captured by the academic. Too often just a string of pointless paradoxes, rarely fruitful discussion.
Though Lowry gets a basic coverage with northern England, I like the more delicate, interesting shape Berger takes for Fasanella with New York. By-the-book art criticism comparing a British artist named Francis Bacon to Walt Disney, in an existentialist way concerned with alienation, I suppose. And a Grünewald altarpiece gets a spryer, more personal meditation.
The penultimate essay, about Romaine Lorquet (some French female sculptor I'd never heard of), is quite a bit more interesting than the ones about Turner or Rodin (artists familiar to me). Maybe introducing me to a whole new person through your thoughts, rather than more commentary on one that already "exists", works more kindly overall. Lorquet's sculptures look natural and not man-made because they "insist so little upon their own making"; backs blank not to be placed in front of a wall but so that their attachment to nature might be more obvious.
The closing essay, "Field", bookends the ponderous frustrations of the earlier, famous "Why Look at Animals?" Hollow prose of an academic, no?: "The first event leads you to notice further events which may be consequences of the first, or which may be entirely unconnected with it except that they take place in the same field" etc., etc. Gimme a break....more
Unlike Rogan's 2/5 and Hinton's 3/5, Heylin's is a very promising and critically perceptive biography of Van Morrison. I could tell right away. MaybeUnlike Rogan's 2/5 and Hinton's 3/5, Heylin's is a very promising and critically perceptive biography of Van Morrison. I could tell right away. Maybe too early: maybe I just grabbed it as soon as I could, before becoming maturely wise all around. Or maybe exactly at the right time: while it's all still fresh, before all unnecessary piles of preparation can make you stale and removed. Is that it? Is that how it should be grabbed, or if it's grabbed like that maybe that's in the end just 'grasping for straws'? Grabbing, grasping, all belabored. Irish rock or stone, passingly interesting, hounded yet further. It's all right.
The beginning's quite interesting, zig-zagging all over his career; always quite quaint, from the early outside "And It Stoned Me" to the late inside "On Hyndford Street"! It'd be maddening if it weren't so carefully documented and shaped into good little pieces. Then of course is the dull grind of the early '60s, amateur musicianship to showband circuit to Them coherence, all the while finding a voice. Not song lyrics now, as digressions to color the research, but little slices quoting the people themselves (colleagues, etc.) or Morrison himself (during an interview, or in the between-song patter of some obscure-but-recorded concert, might pass a slight reminiscence). The shift between keeping mostly lyrics or mostly quotes from real people isn't as smooth as I might hope, but it ends up servicing the prose quite nicely for the most part.
I don't dig all of Heylin's music criticism, especially overblowing some Them stuff I could take or leave as well as giving short shrift to The Bang Masters (I think "Chick-A Boom", "It's All Right", and "Send Your Mind" are all A+ songs myself). He's appropriately reverent about Astral Weeks, though, and gives the songs a lot of critical high marks while chasing down all sorts of production trivia. It's an odd balance the music biographer sets for himself in general -- sorting through mundanities in quest of the sublime, so should these 'mundanities' who've done all the work have the spotlight they deserve or the rougher 'sublime' itself? -- but usually a worthwhile one anyway.
There are some very strange and welcome Morrison quotes too, which Heylin has compiled for us. After Blowin' Your Mind!'s disgraces, Van the Man said an album was "roughly forty minutes of music, that's all" (158). What a curious way to neutralize a problem, by making even-more-problematic just about every other thing you've done in your life. And later, no longer musical but personal, he mentions during a break from performing "It's All In The Game" (imprecisely fixed by Heylin to "a quarter of a century later" than all the acrimony surrounding suit, counter-suit, split with Janet, etc. in the early '70s): "By the time solicitors get involved, it doesn't matter whose fault it is" (268). 'Doesn't matter' in that way, though, sounds as if it had used to matter or would matter if there were some other condition met: unconvincing.
Or as Van the Man reflected in 1985 about the events of more than a decade earlier, when Saint Dominic's Preview had come out, in a certainly longwinded but always rather intriguing way, "Then you have a couple of albums out and you get these reviews, and these people are saying, 'Well, this means this about that, and he was going through that when he wrote this.' You read these things and you go, 'Who are they talking about?'... So you get to the point where you're afraid to write anything, because you know somebody's gonna make something of it" (259). Well, ouch, I must say. But if you can't take the criticism (when someone 'makes something of' something else), then don't originally make anything, especially if it's inside a la-la, critic-happy world where everyone's apparently a critic.
Or as a similar reflection follows (quoted in 1987, about the events of 1973 or so): "...So you have to pretend that there is something you are searching for [even if not], or... an idea that you take somewhere. So it seems like you're searching, but in fact you're just telling little stories" (279). Pretending you are yourself searching equals not searching. Well, the most I've read about 73's Hard Nose the Highway in quite a while, as well as the sabbatical to Ireland, Veedon Fleece, and plenty of others; but the attention to this or that manager or promoter or publicist, and the falling out that usually results from testing Morrison's surliness, starts to feel unnecessary. Sure, you're allowed, but is it one-sided gossip or watery and many-sided Rashomon-like wastes? Humongous collection, fact-checked and pruned all day, but to what end?
Christianity investigation, in the years starting around '79 and in the pages starting around 350, is in my opinion a much better outlet for Heylin's investigation. Into the Music may have hinted at a beginning, and the next few albums developed it, but it wasn't until Inarticulate Speech of the Heart name-checked L. Ron Hubbard that he really seemed lost. But maybe he wasn't lost (as much as Dylan in those same years) but just searching in a New Age way? And when there's disposable income and few ties, Scientology might not be the worst?
Very disillusioned he became, though: "Van said to them, 'Tell me what the secrets are and I'll tell you whether it's worth a few million. Give me a clue. I don't know what I'm getting.' The guy said, 'Look, it's either done it for you up to this degree or it hasn't. If it's done it, you're in and you'll want it. If it hasn't done it, it's time for you to move on.' And Van goes, "Ok, time to move on'" (375). Sounds pretty healthy actually. Throw a few thousand down the drain of a money-sucking cult started on a dare by a hack, and when it doesn't work walk away and don't throw any more down. Ok.
Or the same about an actual Christianity: as friend Clive Culbertson recalls, "Paul [Jones with whom he'd been discussing religion] said, 'Van, here's the deal. God sent a son, he died for you, you can be saved, you can go to heaven, I will not discuss it further.' And Van said, 'But I want to discuss...' 'But Van, either he died for you or he didn't. If he didn't, we've nothing to talk about. If he did, then you're already free.' That's the Christian shape. And that drove him mad... [In the end] he still walked away as [unhealed] as when he came in" (426). I sometimes wonder what Heylin's brackets and ellipses are changing/excluding -- for instance, was something said after 'mad' that would amuse me, like 'absolutely frickin balls-out mad'? Or was there are a word or a phrase synonymous with 'unhealed' said that I could know about? 'decent' maybe or 'thoughtfully conscientious'? I suppose such mysteries will rage still.
I agree that the album Enlightenment doesn't have much, but "Real Real Gone" is pretty fun. I certainly don't expect the author to always exactly mirror how I've taken the music, but his hottest takedowns seem to touch the songs I think least deserve heat. Or maybe that's how I'd see it, you know, in the weak and sappy 'would'-heavy tendency of a Christian beat. "like a series of shopping lists from the id" is I suppose a serviceable enough critique of Hymns to the Silence, I won't say it isn't, but finding a better target isn't the hardest.
Rogan in a sense declared Morrison 'no poet' (just a working musician, petty, no mystery) and Hinton in a sense declared him 'poet' (not just a working musician, somebody great, with troubling ideas, a misfit), so wouldn't it be just perfect if Heylin declared him 'kinda poet'? That would be very great, but I don't think it works quite like that. Heylin leans a bit too hard for my taste into Rogan's 'no poet' conclusion for instance, and a 100% middle-of-the-road balance between all three doesn't seem sustainable at all, so maybe 'not really a poet' would better fit than 'kinda'. Disappointing in a sense that the conclusion is the drab, cynical one; but I won't complain much.
No one's clarified yet, though, how a person can work for years and years -- getting more and more watery, objectively (some like water, but I think almost everyone would agree it's watery), with each new output -- and still be pretty rich and well-supported. It doesn't make sense. Sure, not every record will be Moondance, but how many Beautiful Visions will be tolerated before at least a Veedon Fleece? There might be some absurd Faustian bargain deep down there somewhere. I don't know....more
Filthy mouth with baby face only begins to exemplify all the silly contradictions Jordan Belfort has. Dumbass but millionaire? Drug-insane but handsomFilthy mouth with baby face only begins to exemplify all the silly contradictions Jordan Belfort has. Dumbass but millionaire? Drug-insane but handsome, healthy, comfortable? Up on that Scarface shit but then going all Confessions of a Dangerous Mind but then going, uh, Rocky and Bullwinkle or something? Ugh. I've heard all this before. He's aware of a lot of these contradictions but not all, crucially, so any hunt for a complete list (does the daft guy know how daft he is?) becomes all the more amusing. Scorsese's film was a good one, but Belfort's memoir does things it couldn't. Not a charmless opportunity, of course, to be the anal digester of fat and merry shallowness.
A clippy journal of various falls or badnesses or hypocrisies, or a fully new example of an additional one? The vanity of improvement or redemption, even when it moves from vanity itself? The absurdity of wealth, in that when you're wealthy you're wealthy and when you become not wealthy (by pissing it all away on frivolous wastes, like drugs or luxury or any modern tabloid stunts) you can still be wealthy unless you chose to piss all your wealth away instead of saving it for when you'd become not wealthy? It's a difficult question. "It was like being in the Marines. In fact, I was getting the distinct impression that this bastard's favorite movie was An Officer and a Gentleman" (4). I relate! Oh wait: no, I don't at all, sorry, never mind.
In between flips of Wall Street Journals and reports on Microsoft, something new happens? "What I offer you now is a reconstruction of that insanity -- a satirical reconstruction -- of what would turn out to be one of the wildest rides in Wall Street history" (10). 'Satirical' is what he helpfully offers as a summation of his confessional memoir, a summation not many confessional memoirs would be anywhere close to approaching. But is it a satire exactly, or just a cathartic question before a humongous belly flop? Who knows. Hypothetically of course, "The name of my show was Lifestyles of the Rich and Dysfunctional" (15). His wife Nadine was the star of a Miller Lite beer commercial during Monday Night Football (16). Fiction can easily be satire, but nonfiction rarely is if I recall correctly.
However, do not attempt what you are about to see, with a wink but then a smirk but then another wink. It could be dangerous, but what's life without a little danger. There might be plenty of naysayers -- no, that is bad; it is very, very bad; it's pretty much the worst thing ever, and the fact that you don't see any problems might be a problem itself, or you yourself are the problem and that's why you don't see any; etc.
Dosed up with an enormous amount of drugs, and then you smirk? But no, no, it's crazy how plain but brisk. And knowing how clueless and daft you might seem, while still clever and economical? Just go for it anyway: "amazing how everything always seemed to work out. When I fell down, there was always someone to pick me up… as if I was bulletproof or something" (20). SpongeBob SquarePants. "Gordon Gekko, Don Corleone, Kaiser Soze" (21). Martha Stewart. Knowing how ridiculous the word 'loamy' is? Just use it anyway: "loamy loins, glistening with greed and desire" (22). Knowing how vindictive you might seem sometimes? Just go for it: "Wolf to bear his fangs" (26). With the word 'wolf' capitalized of course.
And sometimes just petty, of course. He describes, while having water thrown on him by his wife because he's cheating on her, talking her down: "In a tone of voice normally reserved for someone who's standing on the edge of a cliff and threatening to jump, I said, 'Put down the glass of water, sweetie, and stop crying'." (26). Playing not only with the outside but with the inside too, in a similar way. "After all, guilt and remorse were worthless emotions, weren't they? Well, I knew they weren't, but I had no time for them" (26). Time is of course money, and nothing is of such necessity to human pursuits as money. But I for one disagree with 'Time is money' but agree with 'I need money', so where to stand? Here? "The greasy chicken in Rocky II before his rematch with Apollo Creed" (31). "I felt like Moses in cowboy boots" (51). Real World!
No time for messy emotions but plenty for "Mutual back-scratching and phony palm-pressing" (57), huh? You haven't even read yet gleefully misinterpreting a comparison to Robin Hood and then defining 'omerta' to painful awkwardness (68). I know, I know. It's difficult to stomach some of the dull horseshit Belfort traffics in soon after -- little black box like an M16 that needs you to fire it (telephone) or "money is the single greatest problem solver known to man" (96) or "ridiculous line of bullshit about how money is the root of all evil" or "There's no nobility in poverty" (97) or etc. etc. etc. -- but there's always "bleeding cash like a hemophiliac in a rose bush" (110) and a question about whether good times would still roll or if he'd become a simple hypocrite if one of his business partners "ever stopped laying golden eggs" (133). Simple badness is always right around the corner. It always 'gets better'! -- or worse, far worse, depending how you look at it.
We keep following Belfort when he decides to meet with Saurel, a French guy in Switzerland, to discuss bank fraud. Musing about the mischievous partner Danny he'd left in their hotel room! Yes indeed. Belfort guesses "there wasn't much Danny could do, short of rape or murder, that the man sitting across from me couldn't fix with one phone call to the proper authority." Also, women are inferior to men, the guy muses? "Jesus! That sounded horrific! Yet I had said those same words to myself many times -- trying to rationalize my own behavior. But to be on the receiving end of it made me realize how truly ridiculous it was" (150). He seems to use the concept of rationalizing so much as just the easiest explanation for all his wrongs, no? Childish 'I was so naughty' conclusion to make. Romantically corrupt, excessive, unusual. Fitting, no? Yeah.
Leisurely they go on, and soon Belfort admires smoking differences between Swiss and Americans. "It was as if in Switzerland it was all about being entitled to partake in a simple manly pleasure, while in the United States it had more to do with having the right to kill yourself with a terrible vice, in spite of all the warnings" (151). Yes, to simplify it this way is good, noble, pure, good, pure? Heck yes.
Oh, so it's an internal monologue you have then, with all those 'Perhaps's and 'Although's? "I'm an adolescent inside a man's body" (171). Yes? He finds "some things are just inherently wrong, and you can look at them from a thousand different angles but, at the end of the day, you always come to the same conclusion, which -- in my case -- is that I'm a dirty rotten scoundrel" (172). Right. Leg pain "was coming from nowhere, and everywhere. And it seemed to be moving" (159). Good motif? I like the way he builds it: like the entire world: seems solid enough but if you breathe too heavily it'll all blow away.
He goes to his beloved Aunt Patricia then, to finalize the fraud. She seems solid enough, especially looking at the issue from a distance: "One thing you'll find as you grow older is that, sometimes, money can be more trouble than it's worth.' She shrugged. 'Don't get me wrong, love, I'm not some silly old fool who's lost her marbles and lives in a dream world where money doesn't matter. I'm well aware" (164). Aware then, and furthermore she suggests "Money is the tool, my child, not the mason" (165). Tool? Mason? What is this, a metaphor?
But getting down to brass tacks seems like a breeze, as she clarifies: "I want you to know that I am all for it!… when you get to my age, a little bit of raciness is what keeps you young, isn't it?" (165). Sure! He even adds soon after, during a different caper back home, "-- despite the voice inside my head that screamed, 'You're in the midst of making one of the gravest errors of your young life!' But I ignored the voice and instead focused on the warmth of the sun" (204). Sun won't be warm forever. Soon, it'll swallow the whole planet up.
Financial regulations all sound like gibberish, especially when you try to patiently triplicate an explanation for them (Rule 144, Regulation S, 2-year loophole for foreigners investing in the United States!). But just remember: repeat something louder if your language isn't understood. It's not that the language isn't intrinsically best or worthwhile or something. Belfort finishes a chapter with a heavy-hearted noir hook, "I won't forget, Todd. I promise," complete with a cut at the end "And just like that I forgot." So naked. Then, trouble with the wife again? "In spite of everything she'd said, it was the word little that wounded me most" (213). The word 'little', huh? Little things can become big problems. It "reminded me of the Pigeon Sisters from the movie The Odd Couple" (213).
Something like the film Ed Wood it could be, I guess, in that little details (eating goldfish, tossing midget, wild sex and drugs and language and smuggling and fraud, etc.) can temporarily distract from the general horror, sadness, bone-chilling angst of the whole thing. Investment is one of the dullest and most colorless pursuits, right up there with making ridiculously bad motion pictures, so won't some very excessive, bombastic flourishes make it palatable? Even the smallest could. Belfort need not worry about being a total hypocrite or boring waste, and Scorsese of course need not worry about any motion picture he makes being bad; but it's just human nature to worry, no?
Considering a fascist or at least conservative trend at the ritzy restaurant where he meets with the FBI, "Back in the good-old days, whenever those were" (256). And then, back at his own office, a speech in progress insulting homosexuals -- outrageous! so un-PC! wouldn't fly anywhere today! -- rumbles together a bit of a no-burn, pass-agg witch hunt but earns only a sigh. "Money makes people do strange things, Danny. Just have patience; you'll find out soon enough" (274). Then, Gilligan's Island (281). A huge Quaalude bender, after which he resolves to quit, "and this time I'm dead serious about it" (299). Saving a friend from drowning, but it's a bit craven too? "Un-fucking-believable! She didn't call me a hero!" (315).
Doing Steve Madden Shoes a favor then. Some business tendency (while some kind of debate rages between steadiness and risk), "in truth, was both his greatest strength and his greatest weakness" (323). Neat divisions are easy. "'Don't take what I said the wrong way' -- Oh, really? How else am I supposed to take it, you fucking backstabber!" (331). Some new business associate was "a spitting image of a rodent. In fact, he could have been a Hollywood stunt double for the comic book character BB Eyes from Dick Tracy" (363).
All of the horseplay minimized or just totally flipped? Monster doses of Quaaludes and coke becoming just a slight whiff of marijuana, or nothing at all, including even the occasional aspirin or gulp of coffee. Marathons with any available prostitute or position or situation becoming just a lingering glance and unspoken squirt later on, or nothing at all, including even the occasional ribald thought. Heaps of money and Long Island luxury becoming just the modest amount to live on, or nothing at all, including even a bed that night in any case. How exactly Belfort wants you to use the examples from his life certainly isn't clear, but he's smart enough to at least leave them alone long enough that their inflation is still silly enough.
Just a shallow, monster hot take on life, of which is then taken a much shallower, even more monster hot take itself? We belong to each other then, just as everything belongs to everything else, when you really think about. 'I' belong to 'you' and 'you' belong to 'me' and 'a fireman' belongs to 'a fire' and 'viewership' belongs to 'the horse' and 'bowling games all over the place' belong to 'liberty', etc. Belfort "rented the mansion of Peter Morton, of Hard Rock Café fame" (388). A near-death yachting accident threatens him, but shortly after "a six-foot-tall Ethiopian masseuse jerked me off... Yet, was there really any difference between getting a hand job and jerking myself off with my own hand?" (412). Philosophy only the occasional thinky ornament gracing normal life, like so?
Then, nearly along to a rock-bottom dive, pills and coke shooting off occasionally, with only capitalism-run-amok craziness as a vague memory. Could it be that this was it? all the ballooning drugs, language, riches garbage disappearing behind pleasantly? The downfall you fear, for sure -- him the paranoid, addict, mental case, and his wife Nadine the martyr, enabler, codependent/angel -- but such a deep and bonkers delivery that you probably wouldn't even believe it if you read about it in a review such as this one. Culminating in less than a year of prison and a resolution I think is best described as 'soft'. Ultimate example: of things ending, and sometimes it's just a comfortable plop and not the total, dramatic summation you'd think it would make. Also ridiculous?
Or I'm sure other films are spoken to, stylistically, as much as books, in a general sense. Don Jon is a very thick confession along these lines. Fast Food Nation is a very searing nonfiction work disguised with fictions. Religulous pretends to strident sociology but can deliver only a lukewarm meditation. If all Belfort's words can do is to lead me again to Scorsese's film, then the book's probably paid for itself. But then again, it was given as a gift, a literal gift, that I'm currently pissing away (albeit in ways almost imperceptible), so maybe that speaks on its own behalf to the concept of "paying" overall. Who knows....more
I kind of thought "Fu Manchu, Moriarty and Dracula" were interesting things to preserve, but apparently Andy Miller doesn't agree as much because he hI kind of thought "Fu Manchu, Moriarty and Dracula" were interesting things to preserve, but apparently Andy Miller doesn't agree as much because he hardly mentions them at all....more
After name-checking several other Van Morrison biographers (particularly sneering at Rogan's "no poet" stance), Brian Hinton begins to build his own bAfter name-checking several other Van Morrison biographers (particularly sneering at Rogan's "no poet" stance), Brian Hinton begins to build his own biography of the man. His is mostly an awkward and loosely edited info dump too, but (instead of the stark politics/art that Rogan tries) he goes for a dizzying array of other folk-rock allusions -- Kinks, Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Patti Smith, Cat Stevens, Animals, etc., etc. -- to color the story. Every hint of Morrison's career development, taste in music, location, influence, etc. sees dozens of other hints (sometimes eerily similar or opposite, and thereby quite remarkable, but sometimes not) in other artists' lives.
It's certainly a way to expand and elaborate on the otherwise drab showbiz bio that Morrison's life could easily be. Not the worst way all in all, but not the best either. A 50+ year reign as Irish rock legend -- mixing together blues, jazz, R&B, poetry -- probably, in general, deserves an expansive and elaborate treatment, but exactly like this? I don't know.
Of particular note is a hinge Hinton sees in the early '70s -- after Astral Weeks and Moondance, around the time of Hard Nose the Highway -- of rock in general decaying, become quieter, flimsier. Folk was strengthening, and pop music was turning to James Taylor and Jackson Browne. It's an idea I haven't heard much before, but coheres and clarifies what's always seemed a tricky change: '65 punk + '67 pop + '68 catharsis + '70 soul (all, in a sense, _hard_) retreating into much, much softer, easier tunes. That's how the music business was moving. Maybe that's part of it.
Song by song, through all the albums, he mostly goes. It's sometimes a bland/samey "guitar comes in, keyboards come up, sax comes down" report. But the perspective is sometimes very interesting. What's particularly admirable is that a lot of live performances get the same song-by-song review; what could have been lost to history is given a record. Still, most of the book seems rather choppy. There are starkly bland allusions like "Like Lazarus" (202) and scattered thoughts smushed together with commas. Hinton does have some fresh and evocative comments throughout, but they're adrift in a meandering sea.
Some small moments did catch my eye later on...
*Hinton notes a 1975 Chris Austin quote (from an NME career retrospective of Van Morrison) about the "unpleasant tendency to backbite at his fellow journalists." I don't know exactly who the antecedent of "his" could be there -- Hinton, Austin, or Morrison himself -- but it's a funny little aside.
*He furthermore gives high marks to "I Forgot That Love Existed" off '87's Poetic Champions Compose: it's "about uniting thought and emotion, a heart that can think and a brain that can feel."
*And similarly, he's lucid (more than I'd be capable of, that's for sure! Hehe) about '89's Avalon Sunset's startling Christianity, as well as about Morrison commenting that we should all "fail better." Some really great analysis there.
Unlike Rogan, Hinton gives equal weight to all the albums (sometimes to a fault, as the 'Blowin Your Mind/revenge songs/Astral Weeks' debacle could definitely use some more pages, but that's a small quibble). Also unlike Rogan (but more majorly unfortunate this time), Hinton doesn't seem curious enough about the reactions to Morrison from fans, coworkers, etc. Everything's just seeming to be fated. I appreciate the resistance to gossip, but are all reactions necessarily gossip?...more
I like the Sunday Times's ho-hum pseudo-plaudit on the cover of Johnny Rogan's book on Van Morrison: "No biography is likely to tell you more about MoI like the Sunday Times's ho-hum pseudo-plaudit on the cover of Johnny Rogan's book on Van Morrison: "No biography is likely to tell you more about Morrison." Okay then, interesting endorsement; can it be "more," but in a mediocre way? Apparently yes, as Rogan delivers a great flood of facts without much perspective. I don't know if this is the way of celebrity biographies in general, but it seems almost everything except for the prologue and the epilogue is disposable gossip.
Van Morrison is a five-decades-deep Irish rock poet -- 33 albums, 71 singles, 45 years -- as well as a frustrating, uncompromising, weird asshole. Rogan's thesis is that the politics of Northern Ireland (most notably Ulster belligerents' "No Surrender") can illuminate and clarify that long career. Begun in the privileged but tense environment of Belfast, Morrison's whole life might be shaped by unionist/Protestant loyalty.
A wonderfully thoughtful premise, but delivered (in the bulk of Rogan's work) mostly in stark and empty juxtaposition, rarely in anything like comparison or connection. Whether Morrison is just a cranky Irishman, just a silly New Age hack, or just a simple curmudgeon, the story he lived is, here, rarely anything but a dumb parallel to the Troubles.
One of the principal characters in the book (unseen to Morrison) is Ian Paisley, an omnipresent religious radio man turned superstar political critic (like Charles Coughlin in '30s America) who filled Belfast with a lot of anti-Pope screeds during Morrison's life. Just a coincidence, or the religious/political complement to Morrison's artistic work? It might be clearer from Rogan's work, honestly, if there were less blunt quotation and more incisive analysis. The Paisley descriptions are a good example of page-by-page "stand politics next to art, and see if anything ever comes together" ineffectiveness.
And, aside from political/religious ideas, the predictable material (went to this school, was this kind of person, worked with these people) is not that great. A lot of it, yes, and put together in a decent way, but not much great. Rogan builds the biography from seemingly exhaustive research to bland and predictable results.
The prose is usually awkward, careless, not well edited, and the perspective usually cloudy-eyed and asinine. Just tied-together quotes a lot of the time, and sudden jumps into editorializing, whether single-word ('50s BBC was "staid," '60s West Germany was "permissive") or multi-paragraph (an uncomfortable riff on one Morrison tryst after his mid-'90s split from trophy wife Michelle Rocca).
The end, and to a certain extent the beginning, depart from enough of these weaknesses to make Rogan's book worthwhile. In the epilogue, he can relax from completely reporting Morrison's life and return to pondering it, including Morrison's shift on the definition of "rock" and a quicker, more effective layout of his entire career: the slog of Them, the false breakthrough of "Brown Eyed Girl," the quieter but truer genesis of Astral Weeks, the sylvan '70s, the scandals and disgrace of the '80s and '90s, and beyond....more
A magnum opus for the philosophy of science, and probably one of the most powerful and incisive statements of (and arguments for) a rational, criticalA magnum opus for the philosophy of science, and probably one of the most powerful and incisive statements of (and arguments for) a rational, critical theory for human life. David Deutsch, a physicist at Oxford, makes a profound case in science, history, and the world at large for good explanations and knowledge-creation. He argues, against the grain of nearly every wishy-washy and/or unproductive explanation out there, that human beings and their ideas are the sum-total origin of progress in the universe.
In the course of his work, Deutsch reinforces a system of objective, fluid, beautiful awareness. He nicely parries counterarguments that his propositions are conceited or anthropocentric or purposeless/misguided. He refutes specific ideas and overarching philosophies (empiricism and positivism, holism and induction and behaviorism, postmodernism and most modernism, et al.) that limit by insidious design what we can learn. Society must be dynamic and individuals creative to make a proper memetic vein through which a good and fecund idea can flow.
For instance, particle/wave indecision in quantum theory has led many simpletons to rush into quackery, but Deutsch lucidly analyzes the physics and dials back its more hysterical misunderstanders. Postmodernism can only arbitrarily (in a lightning-quick circulus in probando) propose that everything's arbitrary. And there are reductionist, lazy, dehumanizing 'interpretation-heavy' explanations all the rage in modern science: eg., Jared Diamond's reductionist fallacies, behaviorism's dehumanizing explanation-jumping, etc. In a clear distillation of what pseudoscience is, Deutsch writes that the bad can't always be countered by the good because the bad holds itself immune.
I think Deutsch slips only occasionally, as when he tries to stretch his ideas into aesthetics (beauty has a strange synthesis of both parochial and objectively universal traits, both applied and pure?) or when, during his examination of memetics, he twice mentions offhand some pretty small but pretty egregious points (isn't humanity having more of a place in evolution [analogizing earth's evolutionary lifespan to a day gives humanity a second/a minute/a few hours?] pretty anthropocentric really? & aren't copycat suicides too literal, and therefore crass, of an example for meme-replication?), both of which could do with some more argument.
The conclusion he makes, "nearly there" optimism is actually a pessimistic utopianism (there would be some magical ultimate structure, after which lay an inexplicable void: a tiny frozen island), comes rightly enough in an ultimate chapter called "The Beginning." Science, or indeed any knowledge, claims neither infallibility nor finality; we can only go from problems to better problems, never from problems to solutions....more
Were music to ever not be ridiculous and disposable, we should have to make it so to save us some work in disposing of it.
Reliability remains today soWere music to ever not be ridiculous and disposable, we should have to make it so to save us some work in disposing of it.
Reliability remains today so unreliable, as if relying on something is even itself subject to circumstance. "I can rely on him" spits out the word "rely" as something redoubtably foreign as opposed to "I can"'s and "him"'s natural bases in verifiable experience.
If I were Wittgenstein, I would have zombied up out of the ground in 1977, when G.H. von Wright was about to publish Vermischte Bemerkungen, and snatched the manuscript right out of his hands, croaking (can zombies croak?) "Miscellany is meant to stay miscellaneous!", and scattering all the pages everywhere. (But this would be terribly avoidable, seeing as a virus of sufficient strength to awaken the corpse didn't exist in that year exactly.) But I'm not Wittgenstein, seeing as I speak barely more than a basic snatch of German, and am not a great philosopher, though I should certainly have a "sense of purpose" to be him. Enough to capitalize on all of it? For purposes of very foolish imitation and mockery?
Almost like senses of purpose can utterly replace all other senses, like of smell. Zombies might smell very unpleasant, and be rudely snatching and scattering pages always.
One of Mendelssohn's 1837 piano concertos (2 in d Op. 40) has always struck me as one of his finest....more
At a slim 188 pages, Sleepwalk With Me seems at first pretty usual and shallow. The ol' standup's memoir, short and jokey and no-nonsense. But BirbiglAt a slim 188 pages, Sleepwalk With Me seems at first pretty usual and shallow. The ol' standup's memoir, short and jokey and no-nonsense. But Birbiglia's always been enormously thoughtful and interesting and self-aware -- in comedy routines, ThisAmericanLife monologues, and in the latest promotion for his movie -- so I thought I'd better give his book a shot. As a whole, it's wise, deft, and profoundly worthwhile.
Honestly, for most of its length, Sleepwalk With Me seems to be just yoked-together comedy bits (short staccato sentences, punchy paragraphs, hit-or-miss) about growing up in a Boston suburb in the '70s, funny anecdotes with family and friends, and rocky self-discovery. But there's so much control and pacing and awareness along with those that they're much more special. And the last chapter (the titular essay, and all by itself the premise for the movie) definitely delivers on the potential of what came before.
There are several expertly-reprised notes of grace in Birbiglia's book that stuck out to me: *He recalls his mother's Catholic minced oath: instead of "Like hell!", she'd warn him with "Like fun!" *From an embarrassing childhood misdeed (you may be able to guess what), Birbiglia earned the nickname "Tinkles." *He imagines, while visiting an Alaskan wildlife retreat with his sister, that the bears lumber up to them with just a few peaceful words: "I'm a bear, etc." Each of these punchlines out once and then comes back again, sometimes again a third or fourth time, but always in an interesting and thoughtful way.
And the book's closer, like its opener, notes an opposite-day-satirical but still sweet reprise from his dad, a persistent "Don't tell anyone." It's hard to end an überconfessional memoir with an idea better than that one.
The story is a fascinating one, but The Professor and the Madman has a persistent case of awful, ridiculous, soul-sucking prose. You could be forgivenThe story is a fascinating one, but The Professor and the Madman has a persistent case of awful, ridiculous, soul-sucking prose. You could be forgiven for mistaking Winchester's shoddy flip-flop of tones as something "exciting" or "propulsive," and his cruddy pile-up of digressions and extraneous phrases and wonky parentheticals as "erudite" or "sophisticated" -- I know how it is, to be sucked into a wild, surprising plot like this one -- but his book has a gigantic discrepancy in quality between its story and its writing that I myself can't stomach.
And sure, I could have looked past this ugly, terrible writing style and seen the promise within, if only the rest of it weren't stupidly organized (surprise --> character description --> murder --> awkward treatise on lexicography --> more character description --> another surprise…), and if all of it weren't absolutely dripping with a manipulative, sneering, pretentious tone that made me never want to look at any of it ever again, "promise" or no.
There's only so much chalking up to plot/action/story that I can do before I need to go back to writing style to see the real effectiveness of a book… and an unwillingness to do that -- an unwillingness to say "Okay, apart from the cool story about the crazy guy and the dictionary, is this a well done book?" -- is the only reason I can think of that this piece of shit would ever be popular....more
A very enlightening, well-written excavation of irony and philosophy, in all senses. It's a book that challenges as much as clarifies, and, at least tA very enlightening, well-written excavation of irony and philosophy, in all senses. It's a book that challenges as much as clarifies, and, at least to my mind, it's an intellectual godsend.
Still, a bit frustrating. For instance, in the beginning, Colebrook repeatedly references another philosopher named Rorty, to whom the reader hasn't been introduced (expect perhaps in the reams of back-matter, into which a philistine/philosophy-civilian like me wouldn't be welcome). The dialogue she begins/departs from/returns to with this Rorty is an intriguing one -- puzzling out "irony" as purely literary, literary and philosophical, or some combination thereof, and how; questioning assumptions about irony's metaphysical, metatextual, and existential identity; etc.--but, after that enormously dense little splash, she then steers into an attempt to define the very literal essence of irony.
Certainly not a piece of cake, that question, but not very hard either, comparatively. It threw me off because it's so much simpler and easier than the preceding exegesis: not that this easier, more literal material is inherently bad, just that it maybe would have made more sense coming first. And Colebrook continues to dip in and out of other aestheticians' works, with material that can be complex and mind-bending one moment and simplistic the next. There are sections on the history of irony in philosophy (Socratic, Kantian, modern); the notion of irony vis-a-vis ethics, linguistics, etc.; and the repeated idea of irony's paradoxical representation/destruction/re-creation of the outside world.
All in all, this monograph seems like a compelling, substantial investment in meta-intellectual life. It defends irony's legitimate place in the world, which has always struck me as a commonly (and profoundly) misunderstood textual/rhetorical/mental idea. It isn't some sick, insincere, misbegotten booby trap, some bullshit contraption whipped out inside language to justify assholitude; it's actually a real, vital engagement with words, ideas, and the world that must be embraced and defended....more