January 2011 Archives
I dedicate this blog post to the memory of John Leonard, who always found Chairman Bob pretty amusing. He's like a character out of John's last novel, the Pynchonesque Crybaby of the Western World.
UPDATE: The initial reviews at RevLeft are not favorable:
"It's like a 14 year old just discovered gill scot heron or amiri baraka and decided to write down like everything he thinks about the world."
"His voice is like a less cool Christopher Walken."
"wow anybody with half a brain and a thesaurus could have written this. i couldn't take it. his lispy voice kind of creeps me out"
"Maoists talked (back in the day) about denouncing the oppressors and 'extolling' the people. But there is zero extolling here (except of Avakian himself and his new synthesis and his books). There is bitterness that no one reads his books, and a special chapter denouncing those who have a chance to read Avakian but choose not to."
My interview with Sehgal will run tomorrow at Inside Higher Ed. [UPDATE: here.] Meanwhile, here is a PDF containing the material she submitted to the committee (which I've chaired for the past three years), presented with her permission.
And she has a website.
In other words, even her malapropisms are being stage-managed.*
It's been thirty years since I read Bernard Malamud's novel about a blood-libel case. And it occurs to me that this is probably the only thing of his that I've read. Anyone out there with an opinion on whether there is something else I should get to?
Don't bother suggesting The Natural. I have studied C.L.R. James on cricket, and will continue to pay attention to my friend Dave Zirin's sportswriting, but must draw the line at reading a novel about baseball.
In any case, two people named Patti Smith's memoir Just Kids, which I also liked very much. And this morning I see that Sherry Wolfe -- whose blog Sherry Talks Back I have been meaning to recommend -- recently stopped by the Chelsea Hotel in the wake of reading the book. Wolfe moved back to NYC last year and the continuing toll of the economy on culture naturally makes a big impression:
As a former denizen of the East Village, from 1988 to 2000, I was eyewitness to that bohemia's twentieth-century grand finale. I moved in the week of the Tompkins Square riot that seems, in retrospect, to have signaled the gentrifiers' victory over a sanctuary of counterculture.
I could still chat on the street back then with The Naked Civil Servant's Quentin Crisp and Howl's Allen Ginsberg or catch a $5 show with Sandra Bernhard, Penny Arcade or John Leguizamo around the corner. But the writing was on the wall as my own rent-stabilized haunt across from the Russian and Turkish Baths on 10th St. slowly drifted toward $1,000 a month.
About the only cultural activity you can still enjoy in Manhattan for no money is people watching--at least that remains one of the most spectacular circuses of humanity on earth.
And of course, artists will always find ways of meeting and mixing with each other in any city, no matter how hard the market tries to homogenize, synchronize and sterilize us all. There's always Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and dare I say, even Staten Island.
I like this (read the entry here) as a response to Smith's book -- that is, the refusal to let reading it turn into an occasion for nostalgia. The spirit of Greenwich Village cannot afford to live in Greenwich Village, but it has work to do, especially right now.
It turns out that the sheer amount of fantasy about the NBCC is kind of interesting, in a psychohistory sort of way. A case in point being something I read online not long ago about how those of us deciding on the awards are subjected to "lobbying." In three years, I've never heard from a single author, agent, or editor trying to influence me one way or the other. I get pitches from publicists all the time, of course, but they are invariably so clueless that I can't imagine them influencing anyone into reading a book -- let alone reviewing one, much less voting for it.
A fair hunch is that the belief in "lobbying" is a function of litblogger wish-fulfillment fantasies being projected. Somebody at Billy Bob's Book Blog assumes that if he or she were on the board, then famous authors would be inviting them to dinner. Alas, no. Would that this were true. After three years my virtue remains all too untested. But who am I to interrupt anybody's fantasies of glamor by pointing out that serving on the NBCC board just means doing a lot of pro bono labor while the anklebitters gnash their teeth? No good can come of insisting on the realities.
Be that as it may -- and with about ten solid weeks of work to do before the end of my term -- I have resolved to bring Quick Study out of its persistent vegetative state. A few people have expressed disappointment that it has had barely a pulse for the past couple of years. I haven't even bothered to post links to my work, while my Twitter presence has been low-volume and erratic, at best. There are various reasons for all of this, but the desire to explain them in detail seems as much a vice as idleness itself. Anyway, I will try to do better.