The Grouchy Marxists

There is so much of this flying around our ‘culture’ right now, it can almost be too much. It’s like everyone is walking around dizzy from the constant eye-rolling, but can you blame us?

So this is really perfect, plus an expert book review:

By incoherence I don’t mean an “extreme” position or the shriek of the provocateur, but a specific genre of chin-stroking, brow-furrowing, “eye opening” sophistry that’s now robustly represented in mainstream newspapers and magazines. Fluttering near the political center (they refuse to be pinned down!), the exponents of the new incoherence look at the Right’s mushrooming despotism, then at the enfeebled, regrouping Left—and, with theatrical exasperation, declare that both are a bit tyrannical. These pundits are the opposite of adherents; all hail the Incoherents! Like the dadaists and the X-Men, the Incoherents are bound by a shared mission: in their case, the valiant disputation of other people’s missions (which we now know are really “orthodoxies”). Anecdotes and dazzling inanities draped over an individualist common sense—this is the technique favored by the scramblers of our discourse. Faced with Incoherent writing, the reader embarks on a psychedelic saga: the truly trippy liquefaction of virtually all of social reality, especially those parts that have been politicized by the Left. So if you crave a “fresh” opinion, feel free to open the New York Times—on class, read David Brooks; on gender, read Bari Weiss. And on race, read Thomas Chatterton Williams, who has now published his second book.

It has been interesting, at the very least, to observe Williams’s ascent. His first book, released by Penguin in 2010, was the memoir Losing My Cool: How a Father’s Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-Hop Culture—the subtitle is now Love, Literature and a Black Man’s Escape from the Crowd—which strode boldly, if rather late, into the “conversation” about black youth culture. (The Washington Post had run Tipper Gore’s famous op-ed “Hate, Rape, and Rap” a full twenty years before.) The volume’s original cover was a picture of the author in a suit: jacket collar popped, tie whipping in the wind. Behind him is a building emblazoned with graffiti.

Read the whole thing. Actually, read other book reviews, too. Hell, read books – but choose wisely! Thanks for the heads-up on this one, Mr. Haslett.

Do What You Should

As others on the internets have decried, Mr. Reed’s passing deserves more than an RIP post and a video. Much more. Here goes.

I like the Eno quote that only about 30,000 people bought the first VU record, but all of them started bands. I can trace the lineage of my own projects through at least a few dozen of these early adopters, as we would refer to them now. SNAIL played a version of What Goes On for years as part of our set, even as other songs got replaced by newer, better ones. That one seemed to never go out of rotation – and I sure hope now that we did it some measure of the justice it did us.

(Far) Too young to have have seen the Velvets, I did see Lou Reed perform once, as part of the big, weird Amnesty International shows in 1985. It was one of six shows that took place in the U.S. and included the first Police reunion, U2, Peter Gabriel, the Nevilles and Reed (and others). And we didn’t need binoculars. My buddy’s ex-girlfriend worked at Turtles Records and her manager, who had a crush on her, got us (alas, not the buddy) tickets on the sixth row. I could see Stewart Copeland jumping around backstage right before they went on. That close. So I actually watched Lou Reed play, drops picks and smile, from about 20 feet away. Thanks, Elaine.

And lastly, to keep this short, when green boy was born, I was very fastidious about what recorded music we would play in the house during those first six months or so – and I don’t know where this came from, it was just totally made up, much like the rest of the experience – and Mrs. Green let it fly, as she had many more pressing concerns. But all we listened to at home for six months was the Velvet Underground Loaded, Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue and Hank Williams’ greatest hits volume 1. We eventually loosened up, of course, and I think some heavy pop and Coltrane quickly followed. But judging by his progress so far, I’m sticking by the wisdom of this early episode in quixotic parenting.