Sunday, November 17, 2013

Cultural Studies

Welcome, young friends, to "Cultural Studies," your place on the "internet" for "cultural studies." Reminded by this Norman Mailer bio that THE NAKED AND THE DEAD has an owl in it. A gruff army cook refers to the stew he is serving as "owl poop," only this saucy fellow uses much saltier language! Yesterday, on a very different note, Dr. Theresa and I enjoyed a most delicious breakfast at the Honey Bee Bakery. The Jackson 5 seemed to be on the old CD shuffler there, and nothing wrong with that! I love the Jackson 5. But then little Michael started singing "Rockin' Robin" and I went into a most unpleasant trance, suddenly eye to eye with the soulless abyss of cynicism (not Michael, who was a pawn in this scheme!) that had manufactured the object called "Rockin' Robin," and I involuntarily did a ten-minute monologue from the point of view of its composer. Luckily, Dr. Theresa found it amusing and entertaining! That kind of thing can go either way. Today I was justly chastened when I read an interview with the music producer Dev Hynes in the New York Times. He said something I want to put on my list of great things that people have said: "So we make a bad song. That’s like the worst thing that can happen. Which, in the scheme of bad things in the world, is not that bad." He goes on to say that a bad song has never killed anybody, or words to that effect, and this is the kind of thing I used to like to say in my fiction writing classes all the time, which may be one reason I am no longer teaching fiction writing classes. But it's true! I can't help it. Go ahead and be awful was often my sincere advice. So, you know, on second thought, maybe I wasn't chastened, because if you want to hear something that has been "carefully crafted" in a "workshop" environment in which a bunch of knowledgeable "colleagues" sat around a table and "improved" the "final product" with "heated critiques" that were only in "your best interest," you should listen to a "well-produced" and "thoughtfully arranged" recording of "Rockin' Robin," because so much "attention" was paid to "detail," but be warned that you will fall into an endless coma that can only be broken by true love's kiss. (Though see also.) A final cultural item! Yesterday, Dr. Theresa went to the used-book section at the back of the antique mall next to Big Bad Breakfast, which is wonderfully curated (the used-book section is) by a woman named Carolyn Ellis Seaton. Chris Offutt and I have whiled away some fun hours there. Dr. Theresa came home with a "Red Badge" mystery published by Dodd, Mead & Co. in 1946. Apparently, this "Red Badge" imprint hosted a yearly $1000 mystery-writing contest that smells like kind of a racket, but maybe it was legit. Anyway, some of the previous contest winners were listed in the front of the book, including TOO MANY BONES, THE MAN WITH THE LUMPY NOSE, and THE AFFAIR OF THE SCARLET CRAB and I was like ha ha ha that sure sounds like one sexy crab and thus conclude our cultural studies.