Q: The most popular types of characters in comedy these days seem to be adults unwilling to grow up. This is common in Hollywood, as well as literature. The eternal teen. But your characters tend to be real adults who are doing their best to live, struggling mightily. There’s no Peter Pan Syndrome at work.
A: I think I had a little advantage in this, in that I didn’t really get started until I already had a regular life — a job, a wife, two kids — so the idea of eternal youth had flown. And it had flown for good reason, by which I mean: I was totally on board with it having flown. I didn’t feel reduced or compromised by having a job and family. The whole 1970s idea of “selling out” had been rendered anachronistic and even gross by the extent of my love for my wife and kids. Beatniking was not an option anymore. So then I had to learn that the things that were actually bothering me or challenging me during the day were valid subjects for literature. Mostly, at that time, what was bothering me was 1) not having enough money to provide for my family in the way they deserved, and 2) having a job that required me to spend basically my whole day doing things that I didn’t want to do and were simultaneously hard and boring but that were, at the time, the only antidote to (1). So I suppose that’s a fundamentally adult conundrum: no place to run, because the trap you’re in is made of love. Love plus material paucity.
George Saunders in Mike Sacks’s Poking a Dead Frog, indirectly responding to the one-paragraph version of A.O. Scott’s #deathofadulthood.
Had to post this trio of responses, two of which are fairly self-explanatory.
As for Tom’s, I think it’s helpful to make this point re: “Baby One More Time” if what you’re doing is basic pop historiography — that song was more of a big-picture turning point (in retrospect) than future iterations of Mecha-Britney, and as far as I know the Neptunes etc. futurist canonization that I ended up responding to and then somewhat (not really) against in the mid-00s didn’t really happen within popcrit until a year or two later but it was very much in response to various turning points in the late 90s (as I liked to say way back when, in 1999 Radio Disney played Britney and Brandy with about equal frequency). And anyway, the appeal to humanizing the vacuum really reaches its breaking point around 2007, which was the POV from which I was listening to stuff from a few years prior.
I often went further than Tom does in trying to separate system and artist around teenpop (taking the pilot out of the suit, as it were), and my overstepping, though it did a disservice to genuine pop systems, was useful (to me) as a reminder that it just doesn’t take THAT many people to make a good song. That doesn’t mean that a machine can’t exist around the songwriting process, or that everything contextual to the song isn’t part of the song (it is!) but that you really can do this shit with like one to three people, and those are the people I’m usually interested in, end of story. I always disliked the futurism and formalism of producer-centric pop criticism, was looking for some truth, etc. If Britney-Max-Mecha is one model, Simpson-Shanks-DioGuardi is another one, and ultimately it’s the one I kind of threw my chips into, for better and for worse.
You guys really need to tell me when there’s an excellent stoopid album of lite house with classical music samples in it.
The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic [Jessica Hopper] on Amazon.com. *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. <div>Jessica Hopper’s music criticism has earned her a reputation as a firebrand, a keen observer and fearless critic not just of music but the culture around it. With this volume spanning from her punk fanzine roots to her landmark piece on R. Kelly’s past
My first thought was, “sigh, of course it is.” My second thought was, “wait, is it?” My third thought was, “yeah, no, right, sigh, of course it is.” My fourth (and most important) thought was “Jessica Hopper is the only other person who thought that Flesh Tone by Kelis was the best album of 2010 so I will automatically read everything she writes until one of us is dead.”
EDIT: Interesting — Kelis was #8 on her P&J ballot but she named it her album of the year in this feature. She reviewed it in three different publications!
RE: Don’t focus too much on the negative in someone else’s work. Don’t make it your CRUSADE. Spend that effort making your own work better. Make your work the COUNTERARGUMENT to the work you don’t like.
Ronald Wimberly (via leseanthomas)
misinterpreting this by hitting on the “don’t focus” without hearing “too much” after’s gonna be a problem for some folks, i think, but that doesn’t make this less useful advice.
I agree with this — a lot, viscerally anyway — and yet it maddens me to think that the counterargument might not get framed against the original argument, or will be swallowed by the original argument, or just plain lost for no reason in particular. Another drawback of focusing too much on the negative in others’ stuff is that that stuff can become a kind of black hole, allowing no light to actually shine on your own ideas. Or, worse, you MAKE the original argument into a black hole, giving it more power than it deserved in the first place. (LOL do I even know how black holes work? I think I’m just working with a cliche here…)
But it gets simpler than that for me — focusing on others’ wrongness can feel short-term adrenaline-pumping righteous in a way that improving my rightness rarely does, in part because generally I think good thinkers and writers live with a sense of unease (not in a “this might be wrong” sense, necessarily, but certainly in a “this isn’t finished” sense) about the rightness of what they’re saying. Reading good things I’ve written is like sucking air into a cavity. (Reading bad things I’ve written is more like biting my lip in the same goddamn place AGAIN.)
(Of course I usually just take the screenshot, think about posting it, and then wait around for a while before deleting it from my desktop.)
I’ve given up actually responding to things and instead just take screenshots without reading.