March 2, 2006

are you honest when no one's looking

stefan bruggemann, dream

* Mountain Goat's John Darnielle on literature and pop music.

"To me, 'musical influences' are so much less important than literary ones. My chief sources are: Joan Didion, the best writer alive and the most interesting person on the subject of what narratives are and how they work or don’t; Faulkner, though it’s been so long since I read him that the main memory for me is the florid descriptive technique, with which I have a complicated relationship; John Berryman; Robbe-Grillet lately but hugely; also recently wielding a big ol’ influence stick is William Gass’ The Tunnel; Seneca’s plays. The list is long, but I feel I’d be a poor sport if I didn’t actually name some musicians/lyricists whose craft I envy and whose phrases I’ll corrupt and steal: Nick Cave, but not recent-vintage Nick Cave; Lou Reed; Mexican singer Ana Gabriel just for purity of tone, transparency of craft, overall awesomeness; Jimmy Reed; Iron Maiden; Jeffrey Lee Pierce; Randy Newman, certainly; Steely Dan.

"These last two write very complex stuff which I couldn’t hope to match, but again, the main thing for me is what’s going on lyrically, and Donald Fagen and Randy Newman both do some really gorgeous method-acting, and neither one’s tempted to wink at the camera too much, if ever — the most important thing when you’re adopting a persona."
"Lethem makes a fantastic point about 'rock-as-Dionysiac-domain,' though it’s absurd from the standpoint of the craft itself. There’s nothing wild and free and libidinous about Mick Jagger’s 33rd consecutive attempt to get just the right quantity of sneer into 'I’m no schoolboy but I know what I like' in 'Brown Sugar,' but the Rolling Stones are notorious studio perfectionists, and 33 is probably a conservative estimate.

"I wish the music world would just embrace its entirely literary nature. Nobody’s worse with the 'you gotta feel it!' junk than rock people. The problem is music from rock forward is construed as being 'about sex,' which is at least partly correct. But there’s also this complicating notion that sex is 'about youth,' or at least for youth. This problem does not exist in the literary world. Not to say that sex appeal doesn’t help sell books: It does, of course it does; but the whole culture of literature, across the magazine spectrum from NYROB to Granta to The Baffler to McSweeney’s, is less heavily reliant on this particular region of smoke and mirrors. I also wish the pop world shared the literary world’s open lust for verbiage. Once a year you’ll read an essay somewhere about how analyzing a song will kill it. Yaaaarrrrgghhhhhh. Hulk smash.

"Contentwise, I don’t really draw any distinction between pop songs and literature, so they can’t really learn from each other in that sense, as they are more or less the same person."

* Watch Indie Clerk Assholes. complete with pavement and pitchfork references.

* The Roast [via]

It started off in the town of Choriamb as a simple dinner party. All of the poets in the world had gathered at a really big tavern for the sake of fun and fellowship. Haggis was served. Robert Hass brought blackberries. Wendy Cope brought bananas and her lawyers. Mark Strand ate poetry. Ink ran out of the corners of his mouth and everyone looked at him as though he were disturbed. Dana Gioia sat in an arm chair telling everyone about how he had invented (see paragraph 2 of his NEA bio) Slam Poetry, Cowboy Poetry, and how the idea for the invention of the Internet had been stolen from him by the pesky Democrat Al Gore. Ted Kooser sat in a corner talking to local cats and dogs. Billy Collins got drunk and bragged about taking off Emily Dickinson's clothes. He then tried to hit on Denise Duhamel, who poked him in the eye with a Barbie Doll. Rita Dove tried to get everyone to dance but she had a bit of trouble because so many poets got into poetry when young because they were geeks and social misfits and therefore didn't date much when young and therefore never learned to dance. Everyone at the party displayed really bad table manners, but this was all ok. They were among friends.

Or so they thought.

Suddenly Sharon Olds screamed.


"What? What?" Ai came running over.

"WILLIAM LOGAN JUST BIT FRANZ WRIGHT! I think he thought he was a potato...."

"OMYGOD," Carolyn Forche said, "Is he all right?"

"No," said David Berman sadly, leaning over Logan and taking his pulse. "He's dead. Hm...maybe I should write a song about this with Billy Corgan...."

"Where is William Logan?" Derek Walcott said. He had such a cool West Indies accent that everyone paused for a moment in awe.

"He ran off," Olds said, after she had recovered from her awe of Derek Walcott's accent, "wearing a long black flapping coat and an evil demonic grin...and looked, momentarily, when Logan bit Wright, like Logan had...fangs!"

Seamus Heaney (who also has a cool accent) and Amiri Baraka picked up Franz Wright and put him into a spare room. All of the poets then resumed the party. Jewel sang. All of the poets were sad at first, but then they consumed lots of alcohol in Wright's honor and things got much better. After several more hours of partying many of them started going back to their hotel rooms so they could sleep.

Meanwhile, in the spare room, Franz Wright came back to life.

(sort of.)

Franz Wright touched his teeth with his tongue and found they had turned into fangs.

"What...what happened to me?" he said.

He looked up. William Logan was standing above him, smiling.

"Logan?" Franz Wright said, "I'm going to kill you!!!!!!!!!!!!"

"You can't," William Logan said. "I'm already dead."


"So are you, my friend."


"Stop saying that. Shut up. You're dead. Also, you're now a vampire. Accept it. I did you a service. Poets only become famous after they are dead. SO, the only way to resurrect the sad state of poetry in this world is to kill it.

"You and me, boy, we have some work to do..." William Logan licked his fangs. "Together, WE WILL RESURRECT POETRY! Let's now go find us some more tasty poets!"

"Yum, yum!" said Franz Wright.


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