Good piece by Saul Austerlitz on music critics who have lost their nerve:
I spend most of my time, professionally speaking, writing about movies and books, and during quiet moments, I like to entertain myself by imagining what might happen if the equivalent of poptimism were to transform those other disciplines. A significant subset of book reviewers would turn up their noses at every mention of Jhumpa Lahiri and James Salter as representatives of snobbish, boring novels for the elite and argue that to be a worthy critic, engaged with mass culture, you would have to direct the bulk of your critical attention to the likes of Dan Brown and Stephenie Meyer. Movie critics would be enjoined from devoting too much of their time to “12 Years a Slave” (box-office take: $56 million) or “The Great Beauty” ($2.7 million), lest they fail to adequately analyze the majesty that is “Thor: The Dark World” ($206.2 million). What if New York food critics insisted on banging on about the virtues of Wendy’s Spicy Chipotle Jr. Cheeseburger?
In the guise of open-mindedness and inclusivity, poptimism gives critics — and by extension, fans — carte blanche to be less adventurous. If we are all talking about Miley Cyrus, then we do not need to wrestle with knottier music that might require some effort to appreciate. And so jazz and world music and regional American genres are shunted off to specialized reviewers, or entirely ignored. If this sounds like a fundamental challengeof the contemporary world — preserving complexity and nuance in a world devoted to bite-size nuggets of easy-to-swallow, predigested information — it should.
[HT: Ted Gioia & Alex Webb]
The opening track of one of the most stylish releases of the year so far. He’s playing the La Linea festival on Sunday.
If I longed for release, it was a matter of professional honour not to show it… It was not until the end of June that I sent off the last batch of pages for the last time. I added a more chatty covering fax than usual. I ended by saying, “Do you know the story about the man who was having a pair of trousers made by a Jewish tailor and it was taking forever? Two months, three months, six months. Finally, he said to the tailor, ‘It took the good Lord six days to make the world and you it takes six months to make a pair of pants.’ And the tailor said, ‘So look at the world, and then just look at this pair of pants.’ Why does this story occur to me at this stage? Best regards, Freddie.”
Frederic Raphael: “Eyes Wide Open: A Memoir of Stanley Kubrick and Eyes Wide Shut”.
Posted in Film
The Mayor as Renaissance Prince? Michael Bloomberg at a bill signing ceremony, January 2013. Joshua Bright’s shot for the NY Times is one of the winners in the National Press Photographers Association Awards. [HT: Amélie Baron]
Seems there was more to him than we thought. A new biography wins praise from Peter Bogdanovich:
The portrait Eyman paints very much resembles the Wayne I knew for nearly 15 years: extremely likable, guileless, exuberant, even strangely innocent. Hawks, who cast him in “Red River” , the major role for the second half of Duke’s career, once said to me that he felt everything that had happened to Wayne had gone a little “over his head.” Indeed, part of the charm of the man who was born Marion Robert Morrison in Winterset, Iowa, in 1907, was his lack of pretension or self-importance. Among the most interesting things I learned from this book are how well Wayne expressed himself in prose, how cogently he formulated his thoughts and what a good student he was. He had wanted, at one point, to be a lawyer, and the few writings Eyman quotes are quite impressive, especially because Ford liked to give the idea that his main star (whom he picked on mercilessly during shoots) was somewhat of an unlettered boob. One time, when I told Ford I was going to give Duke a book for a birthday present, Ford growled, “He’s got a book!”
Classic Stanley Spencer: a scene from painter Lachlan Goudie’s thoroughly absorbing TV documentary about the Clyde shipyard paintings. (You can watch a short clip on the programme’s website.) About 15 years ago, another of Spencer’s famous toilet rolls, from a slightly later period, came up for auction at Christie’s. As well as drafts and doodles, it contained some of his rambling, chatty letters to his first wife, Hilda (who was, I think, dead by that time.) I was tempted to go along and put in a bid – the reserve price was only about £80, as far as I recall. But where would you keep an artifact like that? So I stayed home. In the end, the roll went for three or four times the original estimate.
Etonians, it is alleged, have problems with such banal conventions as the traffic code. In the old days they disregarded licensing laws. Among Etonians (the accusation has been levelled at myself) the existence of a servant class is taken for granted. I have an Etonian friend whose routine, even when young, was invariably, on arriving in any bar or hotel, to ask for something not available. “God,” he would moan, as the hapless waiter went in search of it, as if to say that nothing could be relied on. If the commodity or service was produced, he felt satisfied at having insisted on maintaining standards; if it wasn’t, he experienced a mild sense of thwarted superiority. Perhaps so much savoir faire does imply ownership of a kind.
“Etonians are good to be around,” the psychologist Oliver James (also an Etonian) says. “They have a fundamentally optimistic view of life. Temperamentally, they’re Bertie Woosters. If the sun shines on you for so much of your early life, you tend to think it has been put there for that express purpose.”
Nick Fraser, “The Importance of Being Eton”.
Then he said meanwhile, what about we take in a film this evening? But that was no good to me, because you don’t go into Soho to see films, because Soho is a film, and anyway, most times I go to cinemas I walk out half way through because all I see is a sheet hanging up there, and a lot of idiots staring at it, and hidden up behind all this there’s just a boy operating the machinery with a fag hanging in his mouth even when he puts the record on of the “God Save”, and the cattle down there rise up on their corns, but not he, no! Life is the best film for sure, if you can see it as a film.
Colin MacInnes, “Absolute Beginners”.