Friday, July 16, 2004

now playing: John Cale, The Academy in Peril, for no special reason, which is nice.


Two straight days of tying up loose ends w/o really sinking my teeth into much. E.g.: Responding, at editor's request, to one of two very negative reader responses to what I thought was a pretty innocuous short record review. This was odd, first because I don't often find myself in that position, but also because I broke down and bought Craig Seligman's Sontag & Kael: Opposites Attract Me, and had just been reading the section about various attacks on its subjects. Not that the letters about my review were by Renata Adler or anything.

Said book is oddly structured; it doubles back on itself repeatedly, offering fairly contradictory views of, say, Sontag's attitude toward popular culture within a few pages space. I think he's trying to reach a more holistic view of a given issue by dialectical means, but he never quite makes it to final verdict, even provisionally. He's also too forgiving of Kael's anti-theoretical streak, e.g. her putdown of Sigfried Kracauer: "By the time he has established an ontological system to support his right to say that it's a lovely day, our day has been spoiled." Seligman calls this passage masterly, but my immediate response to the guiding thought is: Why is it so wrong (or, more pointedly, threatening) that someone would approach film from a point of view other than that of the journalistic reviewer/critic. I don't see how the approaches vitiate one another. It's fine with me if one finds no time for philosophy, but can't anyone else?

A passage that Seligman quotes from Neitzsche gives me pause, w/r/t to my own dissipated energies:

"That hidden and masterful something for which we long do not have a name, until finally it proves itself to be our task -- the tyrant in us wreaks horrible revenge for every attempt we make to dodge or escape it....Every time, sickness is the response when we want to doubt our right to our task, when we begin to make things easier for ourselves in any way. Strange and at the same terrible! It is the easing of our burden which we atone most harshly."

I'm probably oversensitive to the success or failure of critical work right now b/c of my own worries about the Costello book. Some of my advisors have suggested that I avoid the "how I came to this record" strategy. My rock writing isn't, by and large, marked by the anecdotal, but I am having trouble finding another way in, even though much of what has to be in the middle of the thing is pretty clear. I probably shouldn't be using this space as a one-person writer's support group, though.


Sorry if this is dull. I'll try to get to (my idea of excitement) last night's program of structuralist film at LACMA in a few days. As to the SCTV DVDs, I can only say: The Gerry Todd show.

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