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Write About Bob Dylan (or any tale of music)



How Does it Feel?
  By Patti Smith 
The New Yorker, December 14, 2016


I was born in Chicago on December 30, 1946, within the vortex of a huge snowstorm. My father had to help the taxi-driver navigate Lake Shore Drive with the windows wide open, while my mother was in labor. I was a scrawny baby, and my father worked to keep me alive, holding me over a steamy washtub to help me breathe. I will think of them both when I step on the stage of the Riviera Theatre, in Chicago, on my seventieth birthday, with my band, and my son and daughter.

Despite the emotionally wrenching atmosphere that has engulfed us during the Presidential election, I have tried to spend December immersed in positive work, tending to the needs of my family, and preparations for the new year. But, before Chicago, I had yet to perform a last important duty for 2016. In September, I was approached to sing at the Nobel Prize ceremony, honoring the laureate for literature, who was then unknown. It would be a few days in Stockholm, in a beautiful hotel, overlooking the water—an honorable opportunity to shine, contemplate, and write. I chose one of my songs that I deemed appropriate to perform with the orchestra.

But when it was announced that Bob Dylan had won the prize and accepted, it seemed no longer fitting for me to sing my own song. I found myself in an unanticipated situation, and had conflicting emotions. In his absence, was I qualified for this task? Would this displease Bob Dylan, whom I would never desire to displease? But, having committed myself and weighing everything, I chose to sing “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” a song I have loved since I was a teen-ager, and a favorite of my late husband. Read more...



The David Foster Wallace Disease By Sasha Chapin, from Hazlit

Famous dead writer David Foster Wallace made many writers unhappy. The unhappiness, of course, was a feeling of inferiority. You know, if you’re a writer reading Wallace, that you just aren’t that good. You just can’t be. Anecdotal evidence of this includes many hours of my sadness. More anecdotal evidence of this includes Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, a big brick of a novel clearly intended to rival Infinite Jest, the latter marking its twentieth anniversary this year. (Franzen, in an interview in BookPage, said, “Infinite Jest got me working, as competition will get you working.”) And then there’s David Lipsky’s Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, a book about hanging out with Wallace that is largely about Lipsky’s envy at not being his equal. I am not alone in this neurosis.

Wallace was blatantly virtuosic—not a subtle writer. I don’t mean that his writing didn’t have subtleties; what I mean is that his writing roared onto the page, declaring its own importance. It wasn’t like other, quieter great writing, the work of Kafka, say, or, more recently, Lydia Davis—his writing didn’t rely on small shifts, occurring quietly across multiple paragraphs. His work was maximal. His immense vocabulary—he casually used words like “nystagmus” or “erumpent”—was animated by syntax as delicate as a crystal glove. He hurled raw linguistic power in all directions. He apparently also felt that his giant paragraphs weren’t erudition enough, so, for much of his career, he littered them with very pregnant footnotes, as if to say, “Hey, did you think I only had one thousand pages of intelligent remarks? Well, too bad, I’ve got more.” Some passages felt like flirting with a sad encyclopedia. Other passages felt like hanging out with an over-excited kid with a supercomputer for a frontal cortex.

These tendencies could get excessive. I would forgive anyone for introducing Infinite Jest to a wood chipper upon reading this sentence, about how Gerhardt Schitt, a tennis coach,

“seemed intuitively to sense that it was a matter not of reduction at all, but—perversely—of expansion, the aleatory flutter of uncontrolled, metastatic growth—each well-shot ball admitting of n possible responses, n-squared possible responses to those responses, and on into what Incandenza would articulate to anyone who shared both his backgrounds as a Cantorian continuum of infinities of possible move and response, Cantorian and beautiful because infoliating, contained, this diagnate infinity of infinities of choice and execution, mathematically uncontrolled but humanly contained, bounded by the talent and imagination of self and opponent, bent in on itself by the containing boundaries of skill and imagination that brought one player finally down, that kept both from winning, that made it, finally, a game, these boundaries of self.” Read more...


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From Hell's Angels, by Hunter S. Thompson

Wierd as it seems, as this band of costumed hoodlums converged on Monterey that morning they were on the verge of "making it big," as the showbiz people say, and they would owe most of their success to a curious rape mania that rides on the shoulders of American journalism like some jeering, masturbating raven.


"It has been 50 years since Hunter S. Thompson published the definitive book on motorcycle guys: Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. It grew out of a piece first published in The Nation one year earlier. My grandfather, Carey McWilliams, editor of the magazine from 1955 to 1975, commissioned the piece from Thompson—it was the gonzo journalist’s first big break, and the beginning of a friendship between the two men that would last until my grandfather died in 1980. Because of that family connection, I had long known that Hell’s Angels was a political book. Even so, I was surprised, when I finally picked it up a few years ago, by how prophetic Thompson is and how eerily he anticipates 21st-century American politics. This year, when people asked me what I thought of the election, I kept telling them to read Hell’s Angels."


From,  This Political Theorist Predicted the Rise of Trumpism. His Name Was Hunter S. Thompson. by Susan McWilliams. Read more...