Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Few Cultural Notes

Last night we were at the restaurant, and T was bartending, which means T was DJing, which means happiness all around. "Shut Up and Drive" came on, and we were all shaking our heads and bopping our shoulders, because what else can you do when you hear "Shut Up and Drive"? I mean, that is one irresistible song (and, frankly, I have no interest in resisting Rihanna).

Then suddenly Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car" came to mind (can you say summer of '87?). If I were more musically knowledgeable, I would try to make an argument about the difference 20 years or so makes for pop music, Black women, and cars, but I don't think I can manage it, at least on any kind of generalizable terms. One song looks back, the other forward; one yearns on an acoustic guitar, the other bounces on a drum machine loop; one's about love, the other is about sex; both evoke the all-American car/escape thing, but Rihanna's the one who's in charge--or at least the one who's made to seem in charge, even though Chapman was the one who was in charge of her career, even though look what good that did her. So, have we made progress, or not, and on what terms? Or is it just the difference between Tracy Chapman and Rihanna, which is a difference in so many dimensions: economic, geographic, relation to music business? I'll go with my usual conclusion, and say Yes.

On the book front, I so do not get the fuss being made over Caitlin Macy's new book. The first story is compelling, the next two are unreadable, then there's one that's OK, then I think I stopped. It's fine to write about unpleasant characters, but there's got to be a place to hook in, and I sure haven't found it.

On the other hand, Zoe Heller's new novel had me hooked from the first sentence. The woman can write, whether you like it or not: she's got power of phrasing, power of observation, power of characterization. I probably shouldn't be writing about the book, as I've only read a few chapters, and I could just as easily end up hating it, but I was so struck by the difference between Heller's essential readability, even with unpleasant characters, and Macy's fundamental unreadability, at least for me.

Tune in soon, when I'll be able to tell you all about the Hannah Montana movie...

1 comment:

Dawn said...

I'm reading (for the first time) Slouching Towards Bethlehem and has anyone ever told you that you write just like Joan Didion?