But idly Wikipedia-ing Johnny Depp (who seems to have turned into a real live actor in all those years since I first saw him glomming wistfully about in Edward Scissorhands), I got really depressed to learn that he's actually older than me. Well – I can't do anything about the baldness or the lack of fine bone structure, but golly I've got to start dieting & working out...
On one of those link-hopping stretches (avoiding work again, of course) I follow John Latta to Jordan Davis to fetch up upon a couple of interesting essays on one of my fave bands, Gang of Four. Timothy Sexton's "Gang of Four and Pop Music as Marxist Critical Theory: A Market of the Senses" is pretty heavy-duty cultural criticism; Scott McLemee's "Entertainment!" responds. The short version? Sexton: GoF Althusserians; McLemee: GoF Debordian Situationists. (Suspect he's been reading Greil Marcus...) Stay tuned for my own thoughtful assesment.
Anyway, Jordan D. two bits' worth runs like this:
With this kind of work -- I'm thinking now also of the Canadian poets Rod Mengham, Rod Smith, and Rodrigo Toscano -- the measure of the experience is not whether you can integrate their critique into a consistent theory, the measure is how memorable are their zingers.Not entirely sure whether JD means by "this kind of work" "critical essays on Leftist 80s bands" or "Gang of Four & their ilk" (must be the latter). To which John L responds, with fascinating reference back to what sounds like some really lively readings by (of all people) Donald Hall back in the day:
Admittedly, tone is difficult to determine here, and maybe the remark is simply cheeky . . . If not, though, I got questions. Is an assault (or a sprinkling) of one-liners enough? (Is entertainment enough?) (A “zinger” entertains without instructing—meaning it’s unlikely to point to any coherent critique, or convince the unconvinced.) Is the “zinger”-style (call it Rod-kunstwerke) a direct result of performance-anxiety? (That is, writing written for reading, for “getting out the laugh.”) (One writes differently for the known audience.) (In places of thriving “community” or “scene,” most reading-audiences are (mostly) known.) Is the criticism leveled at the supposed showmanship of a Billy Collins inapplicable to the modèle zingeresque of the Rods? (Is the difference an innocuous-inane humor versus a fierce, pointed humor?) (A humor longing to be dangerous?) (Is showmanship (what I loosely term “showmanship”) a form insusceptible to any too-dangerous content?) (Do you think one could laugh oneself through a revolutionary change?)My experience of the often painful business of poetry readings is that the one-liner plays a pretty big role in most all flavors of contemporary poetry. Charles Bernstein one grand example, a fellow who's written whole poems based around Henny Youngmanesque one-liners, but most of his compadres in the "experimental" scene write a lot less funny (except of course Bruce Andrews & the Flarfistas). Indeed, back in the day when I had poetry readings I really wanted to go to (the unending stream of cool things Rod Smith was hosting in DC, specifically), I found myself sitting thru a lot of performances where the only – the only – signs of response in the audience (sitting with bitten lips & knitted brows, often very Rodinesque) came when a one-liner broke the ice of seemingly endless scrolling parataxis. And this from poets whom I often found interesting & even compelling on the page.
Mibby I generalize from a period style & coterie method – call it the "Roof Books" mode – but yes, by God, I found that the "mainstream" writers – perhaps because they were getting paid more, perhaps because a larger chunk of their livelihood depended on performance, certainly because their work was more immediately accessible – were able to play on a much wider range of emotions in their audiences. (Tho I can't tell you how many times I looked up a poem that had sounded just grand only to find it stale flat & unprofitable.)
I want – oh how I want – to laugh myself through a revolutionary change.