Friday, September 26, 2014

The Great Gatsby—Great or Grating?

A certain stratum of Twin Cities “intelligentsia” loves to grovel before “The Great Gatsby”. Three women on Minnesota Public Radio are at it again this morning. They aren’t only calling it the greatest American novel, but the greatest novel period.

"What makes it so Great? Why does it endu-u-ure? Why do we keep rereading it?"

I've read it several times. It's on my shelf right now. Why? A repeatedly unsuccessful search to catch a glimpse of any latent transplendence. To me, it's dull, shallow, cheap, simplistic melodrama that I have to slog through. The only thing that lingers for me is the billboard with the "watchful eyes".

Some prof-type talked about "The best seven pages that have ever been written about America" lurking somewhere in Gatsby...??!!!!

The host and guests on the radio show vied to outdo each other with the overwhelming ravishment each experienced the first time she read Gatsby.

Well, these folks have to make a living, too, and this is one way to go about it.

But it makes me think that even though they read a lot, they must not read widely. It's "greatness" pales in the presence of...for starters:

Anything by Robertson Davies. (Not an "American" because he's Canadian? Our friends to the north would argue that provincial view.)

Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court".

"The Subterraneans" and "The Dharma Bums" by Jack Kerouac.

"Women" by Charles Bukowski.

"Clem Anderson" by R.V. Cassill

Even Herman Wouk's "Youngblood Hawke" is more compelling in all its popular novel-ness. That potboiler was fun both times I read it.

And Henry Miller's gigantic "The Rosy Crucifixion". This massive trilogy is set in the same era as Gatsby. If you want to talk about having one's world shift while reading it for the first time...

That covers a few “great” American novels. If you’re claiming global greatness for Gatsby the list of contenders multiplies. Musil, Gombrowicz, Broch, Kundera, Kafka…and on… As the N’yawkas like to say, “fugedabahdit!”

But what’s this compulsion to establish greatness? There’s some masturbatory, self-serving element to all this. If you like it, it’s good. Like wine. Evangelistic browbeating is pointless. Oh, right…everybody has to make a living. Even Jay Gatsby at some point, as I recall…but I think my mind was always wandering by then…

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Good News For Consumers

Pay attention to the media that you choose to access.
You are no longer a human being, a citizen, a person, or even a Communist "comrade".
You are a consumer. That is the identity and role assigned to you. That is your function.
"Good news for consumers today...."
"Consumers are asking...."
And so on...

I'm not hearing anyone talk about this. Not in my world, anyway. And when I bring it up to individuals face-to-face the reaction has been: "What? Oh. Oh.... Wow! Yeah..."

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Snow Never Stops Falling

©Copyright 2010 by Gary Lee Joyner

The air is warm, but the sky cold gray
We finally rise to face the day
Search for the hint of a hopeful ray
But the Snow Never Stops Falling

Collecting in boxes on silver chains
Across dead grass and sidewalk stains
Hiding memories of summer rains
The Snow Never Stops Falling

Canvas faces surround us here
Faded paint blurred by tears
Unblinking eyes, a hint of fear
And the Snow Never Stops Falling

Snow that falls this slowly
Never touches the ground
The earth takes it into her mouth
And swallows without a sound
She’ll gently use her tongue
To guide its journey down

Come back to this bed of flannel sheets
Or leave me alone to sleep in peace
To dream in a world of imagined feats
Because the Snow Never Stops Falling

A lion crawled into my room
Sniffing like a dog lost in a tomb
Before slipping away at the first scent of doom
And the Snow Never Stops Falling

Here’s a soul that’s bleeding blue
Like faded ink in an old tattoo
Can we bring back color and make things new
Will the snow ever stop falling

Snow that falls this slowly
Never touches the ground
The earth takes it into her mouth
And swallows without a sound
She’ll gently use her tongue
To guide its journey down

One walks out, another steps in
A moment of relief and then
Take a breath, begin again
And the Snow Never Stops Falling

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Thursday, April 10, 1986

Imagine getting up tomorrow and finding today again.

In a way, we do this every day, but...I actually lived Thursday, April 10, 1986 twice.

I was working in the entertainment department on a cruise ship heading east from Japan and we crossed the international dateline. I was prepared for the oddness of doing April 10th twice, but the utter weirdness of doing two Thursdays in a row caught me off guard.

The cruise line paid the staff for one day's work saying," It's April's one day," while they charged passengers for two...

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Album 1700

Once upon a time in the distant past a tall, lanky, gorgeous, Swedish blonde bass player with a sweet name stole my songbook for Peter, Paul, and Mary's "Album 1700". I recently found a used copy of the book.

Peter, Paul, and Mary played a significant role in my beginning guitar years. I eventually had a personal connection with Paul (hipsters call him Noel) that I'll tell you about sometime. Still further along the way my interests went in other directions and P,P and M became irrelevant for me.

Rediscovering this songbook sent me back to the old vinyl albums. (I had to go to The Electric Fetus for copies of a couple because I wore the originals out in high school.) I'm having fun looking and listening from a different lifetime perspective. There was a lot of commercial nonsense (after all, they were created artificially by Albert Grossman to meet the "needs" of the current commercial folk market), but they did some very nice vocal harmony work. And sometimes their acoustic guitar sound was quite full and good...for the times.

Two of the albums ("Album 1700" and "Peter, Paul and Mary Album") occasionally approach real hipness because their back-up band was...are you ready for this?...The Paul Butterfield Blues Band...including Michael Bloomfield!!

God only knows the wet dreams that Mary inspired.

And I must add that the more I reconnect with the passion for music-making that P, P and M inspired in me the better off I will be.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The New Gateway: Putting the "War On Drugs" Focus Where It Belongs

The lamentable death of P.S. Hoffman has everyone talking about heroin, of course. The media (a plural word) thrive on this sort of energy.

In the process, information is coming out that the biggest drug problems in recent years (death, addiction, crime, etc) have revolved around prescription drugs. This isn't news, but it is brought into a new focus.

There are also reports about users moving on to heroin when their Rx drugs run out because heroin is now cheaper and more readily available than the prescriptions.

At the same time, new reports are out about the incredible and barely graspable corporate profit margins for the drugs that are constantly being pushed at you via the media (a plural word).

Here's a reasonable conclusion that you won't be hearing in corporate-controlled media (a plural word) because it doesn't serve pharmaceutical profit purposes (even though the same thinking continues to be disingenuously and artificially used as an excuse for maintaining a criminal status for marijuana): Rx drugs are now clearly established as "gateway" drugs. As such, they should be criminalized.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Aspen Magazine

In the mid-70s a friend of mine showed me his issues of Aspen Magazine. He had seen an ad in another magazine and decided to send off the $5 required for a subscription. Given the times and our financial situations this was an admirably brazen move on his part. His guess that it might be a scam was supported when nothing showed up in the mail for awhile. But eventually things did appear--unpredictably and irregularly. Each issue was in fact a magical box of art pieces, recordings (things like Neal Cassady chattering at an SF Acid Test in the 60s), poetry, printed materials, art manifestos, and so on. It all reflected maverick approaches to art, maniacal collaborations, and other marvels that enflamed one's creative passions. He let me borrow these treasures for awhile and I photocopied various things, made copies of the tapes. I discovered ideas that affect my work to this day.

And speaking of this day, I looked up Aspen Magazine on-line this morning and found an issue for sale at Abe Books. The cost? $22,500...