Tuesday, December 01, 2009

home stretch (deux)

One of those days. Massive grading all day, broken only by a little undirected reading. A FB comment by Ben Friedlander sent me to my Library of America stacks to haul down Poe's Poetry and Tales & re-read the Dupin stories. "Murders in the Rue Morgue" just as good as when I read it at 14 or 15; "The Mystery of Marie Rogêt" just as I recalled it – a total snooze. (I'm saving "The Purloined Letter" for a more Lacanian day.) How does that happen? The guy writes a brilliant, even suspenseful, story, in the process inventing Sherlock Holmes & the whole genre of ratiocinative detective fiction, then he turns around for a sequel & writes one of the most inert corpses in his whole oeuvre. Poe fascinates me by his ability to snatch bathos out of the jaws of brilliance. Almost the greatest writer of the 19th century – and often among the worst.

Enjoying Meghnad Desai's Marx's Revenge: The Resurgence of Capitalism and the Death of Statist Socialism. One wonders if the editors at Verso (!) actually read all the way thru this one before sending MD his contract. It amounts to a smart, mostly accessible & mostly well-written survey of economic thought & history from Adam Smith to the turn of millennium. Desai, once a man of the Left, has become a free market evangelist. (That's Baron Desai to you commoners, by the way.) There's no stopping the course of globalization & the mind-bending evolutions of capital, he tells us – the best we can do is to try & make sure as many people get caught up in the prosperity as possible; maybe sometime in the future – who knows when? – we'll emerge on the other side of capitalism; but for now it's the only game in town. I can't say I'm convinced, but I know a real live economist, & one who's actually read & weighed all the theories & evidence for himself, when I read one – as opposed to the half-baked slogans and articles of faith that get served up (on both right and left) most of the time.

3 Mustaphas 3: Lu Edmonds's saz sent me back into the vinyl files, where I decanted a half-dozen 12-inches & cast my mind back to the late 80s. The Mustaphas were a group of London musicians/musicologist-types who wore fezes and pretended to be from some vaguely situated Balkan province, a town called Szegerly. They were all first-rate musicians; played what was beginning to be called "world music": half the time straight-up covers of Greek, Turkish, Balkan, Arabic, whatever, the other half weird bastard mixes – a paean to Soba noodles sung mostly in Japanese to an American truck-driving country beat, with a Serbian dance thrown in as the bridge, a Klezmer tune played on the Turkish cümbüs with a tabla break in the middle – you get the picture. They spoke in funny accents, when they spoke English. (I'm told their pronunciation of non-English lyrics was pretty atrocious – my Indian friend said their version of the Hindi "Awara Hoon" was flatly unintelligible.) A string of comments to a YouTube video made me realize the connection: 3 Mustaphas 3 were musical Borat, avant la lettre. Minus of course the savage satire; these guys really loved the music they were playing, & played it for the most part nobly.

Alas, the records haven't held up awfully well: the production of most of the 3 Mustaphas 3 records sounds a bit on the thin side, & let's face it, the original recordings of most of the songs they cover have more grit & interest, & after all who needs manufactured transculturalism, complete with fezes, when you can get the real thing so easily these days? Like this, which I listened to this morning: Roberto Rodriguez's Ballo! Gitano Ballo!, a dandy set of Judaeo-Cuban dance tunes; klezmer to a latin beat, glorious horns & strings.

1 comment:

mongibeddu said...

Marie Roget is a bit of a white elephant--I kind of like those. And I also kind of like the essay-fiction hybrid. I suspect Borges loved it. Sorry to get you sidetracked!