Monday, December 19, 2005

Shit, Now He's Talking About Merde

I'll cut the crap eventually, but not today. Today I'm thinking about our incessant mouthing of words like "human rights" and "freedom" and "democracy," and the "legal" wiretapping of American phone lines, and the white phosphorus that may or may not have been used to melt the skin of Iraqi civilians during the battle for Falluja, and the torture of war prisoners that we would never do, okay, yeah, we did, but which we'll never do again. This is one of my favorite quotes, but you should read the entire novel:

"Today is my thirtieth birthday and I sit on the ocean wave in the schoolyard and wait for Kate and think of nothing. Now in the thirty-first year of my dark pilgrimage on this earth and knowing less than I ever knew before, having learned only to recognize merde when I see it, having inherited no more from my father than a good nose for merde, for every species of shit that flies - my only talent - smelling merde from every quarter, living in fact in the very century of merde, the great shithouse of scientific humanism where needs are satisfied, everyone becomes an anyone, a warm and creative person, and prospers like a dung beetle, and one hundred percent of people are humanists and ninety-eight percent believe in God, and men are dead, dead, dead; and the malaise has settled like a fall-out and what people really fear is not that the bomb will fall but that the bomb will not fall - on this my thirtieth birthday, I know nothing and there is nothing left to do but fall prey to desire." -- Walker Percy, from The Moviegoer

6 comments:

Andy Whitman said...

Hot off the press. Until today the U.S. military has denied that white phosophorus was used in the battle for Falluja, and has denounced such a story in the strongest terms.

But not there is this: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4440664.stm

danthress said...
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Andrew Newby said...

Andy -

I have your blog in my daily reading links and I've been a fan of your work since the RMC list, then the VOL-list, and you're pretty much the only reason Paste can claim me as a subscriber. Just when I've exhausted myself complaining about the publication I turn to your column and shut the hell up because I know I'll get my money's worth. It's very similar to my Entertainment Weekly subscription. Ever been told you're someone's Steven King? Now you can...breath of brilliance and fresh air to close out the publication on a memorable note.

Anyway, the purpose of this note wasn't to praise you, though it's long overdue. I wanted to thank you for the Walker Percy quote. I'm sure you've read Lancelot, but on the off-chance that you haven't, I'd highly recommend it.

Thank you for increasing your visibility. The world is a richer place for it.

Sincerely,
Andrew Newby

Andy Whitman said...

Andrew, I remember you from the RMC and VoL lists. Thanks very much for your kind and encouraging words.

Do you really think Paste is equivalent to Entertainment Weekly? Wow, I hope not. I'd really like to hear what you don't like about the magazine. And no, I won't get defensive. Paste isn't only my baby, but it's partly my baby, and I'd certainly like it to be the best magazine it can be. What don't you like about the magazine?

Andrew Newby said...

I didn't mean to slag Paste so harshly, but I guess I do find myself disappointed more often than not as a subscriber.

The cover features tend to read a bit hammy to me (the Death Cab article being the worst example of this... since when does a music journalist name-drop the brand of their shoes to try to prove cred? And aren't Fluevogs kinda five-years-ago anyway?). I find myself learning more and expanding my shopping list more from Harp, Magnet, and Performing Songwriter. They're tough competition, but I know Paste has the drive and the resources to outdo them.

I suppose the qualities I love most about your column -- the depth of knowledge, breadth of reference, and beautiful knack for nailing the proper context of an artist's influences -- would be what I find sorely lacking in most of Paste's other writers.

What frustrates me is that Paste has obviously brought a lot of hope to songwriters I love. I've heard many a jaded musician talk about something they saw in Paste. I just want to see something unique and magical happening in the pages.

Acoustic Guitar magazine recently had Joe Henry interview Loudon Wainwright, who Henry considers one of his Top-4 influences. It was insightful, informative, and got me out of my chair to buy the albums they spoke of.

Overall, Paste has shown a lot of development since the first issue, and I appreciate that. When my current subscription ends, I'll renew and hope for continued development.

Andy Whitman said...

Andrew, thanks for your comments.

You know, I do see what you're seeing as well, at least some of the time. I'm sometimes frustrated by the writing. Sometimes I'm frustrated by my own writing, and wish I had both more time (it's not uncommon to receive an album a day or two before a review is due) and a word count greater than 100 words to state my case. It's difficult for me to say much of anything in 100 words.

The last cover story contained the egregious word "unfuckwitable," which not only told me that the writer was terminally hip, but that he dabbled in the incomprehensible. Just what does that mean, anyway?

In any event, you're not the only one who has commented on the Death Cab for Cutie story. I'll just say that others have noted the things you've noted, and that your observation is fair and valid.

All that said, I'm still thrilled with Paste, and would be even if I had no involvement other than as a reader. I greatly appreciate the breadth of the coverage. I know I've discovered music, films, and books that I otherwise would have never encountered.

For what it's worth, Joe Henry and Loudon Wainwright are heroes of mine. I've written about both in Paste. Joe Henry is so articulate and so thoughtful, and it was a great pleasure to interview him. I'm not surprised that he was able to really dig deep in his conversation with Loudon.

Thanks again for your comments. I really appreciate them.