April 7, 2004

There must be something wrong boys they're dragging me down

* Washington Post's Anne Applebaum on The Literary Divide. an excerpt:

"I should know, since I've recently been to two literary award ceremonies -- this week's was just an announcement -- and both times I've lost. Maybe losers bring their own bitter, twisted emotions to their recollections of such events, but I still don't think it's wrong to describe the 'literary' contingent at both events as, well, bitter and twisted. On both evenings, prize committee chairmen got up to praise the novel or historical work they'd selected, invariably adding a phrase or two about how, in 'today's world' such works are "ever more necessary." Anyone talking about criticism described the lonely life of a critic; anyone talking about poetry became downright defensive. Most of the winners, in fact, were very brief. It was as if the gap between the nice things being said about them inside the room and the hostility of the world outside was too unbearable to discuss.

"I'm not quite sure how it got to be this way -- writers of heavy books on one side, mass media on the other -- because it wasn't always so. The great American cultural blender once produced whole art forms, such as Broadway musicals and jazz, that might well be described as a blend of the two. But nowadays, that gap is so wide that I'm not even sure the old descriptions of the various forms of 'culture' -- highbrow, middlebrow, popular -- even make sense any more. Does Edward P. Jones, the Washingtonian whose eloquent novel, 'The Known World,' won a Pulitzer Prize this week, even inhabit the same universe as MTV? Does anybody who reads one watch the other?

"There are surely multiple explanations, but the main one concerns money: the large amount you make, if you can cater to a 'mass market,' the small amount you make if you can't, and the fact that everyone in the publishing industry knows who is who. Occasionally, this tension emerges into the open. At the National Book Awards ceremony last fall, a special lifetime achievement award was given to the horror writer -- and mass-market success -- Stephen King. He returned the favor with a slap in the face. In an extraordinary acceptance speech, he claimed that he had been snubbed all of his life by snooty critics; that wonderful writers such as John Grisham were regularly ignored by snobbish prize committees; and that never, ever in his entire life had he written a word for money."

* The Onion: point-counterpoint.

* Bob Dylan appears in a Victoria Secret ad. an excerpt:

"There could be blood on the tracks for Bob Dylan after he appeared in a television commercial yesterday for luxury lingerie.

"sked in 1965 what might tempt him to sell out, Dylan replied: 'Ladies undergarments.' Now the the Woodstock generation has been jolted by the sight of rock's most enigmatic performer appearing alongside model Adriana Lima as she slips into something sheer to cavort in the Palazzo of Venice.

"The author of Lay, Lady, Lay stays fully clad, all in black, with plenty of eye-liner, a pencil thin moustache and goatee beard, while leering at Lima, who is in bra, panties and spike heels. Dylan then sings a remix of his 1977 song Love Sick, surrounded by other scantily-clad models, who wear feathery angels' wings."
"Just how much Dylan was paid is being kept secret, but he will have asked for a tidy sum. Noted, with Mick Jagger, as one of rock's most astute businessmen, he often gleefully charges journalists to cover his concerts, demanding £100 from each critic for his 25th anniversary gig at New York's Madison Square Garden.

"The move is a long way from his origins as the pianist with Bobby Vee's backing group who travelled to New York down Highway 61 to visit Woody Guthrie. His music set a trend in a world caught in the doldrums between the advent of rock 'n' roll and its 1960s apotheosis.

"Since then, he has become one of entertainment's most curious figures, never explaining himself or why he constantly performs. His latest concert, at the 9.30 Club in Washington DC this week, was typical. The place was packed, but he barely acknowledged the crowd, crouching behind a keyboard, facing his band instead of the audience."


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