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17 August 2010

Crass & Mary Margaret O’Hara de-recluse themselves


In the overmediated age we find ourselves in, I have a kind of kneejerk negative reaction to the entire notion of the recluse. Especially when the semifamous are accused of such behavior, it strikes me less as a desire for obscurity, than an assertion of self-respect, a meek demand for privacy, and/or a slide into a more decent sort of existence. Viz Salinger, admittedly a tad more famous than some of the “obscure” musicians whose work I admire.

In any case, there’s no denying two of my favorite icons of ’80s music have been accused of reclusive behavior. But today I woke up, fired up the internets, and bumped into two fine examples of them speaking loud and clear. So, without further adieu:

CRASS in VICE MAGAZINE
MARY MARGARET O’HARA on Q TV

One of the great archival photographs that appears alongside the great Crass interview appears above. Another right below.

And here is the Mary Margaret O’Hara interview in its entirety.

If you click on the tags to this post you can find a fair bit more of my internet ramblings about these two folks. And, because I’ll always appeal to prurient interests when given the chance, there’s one last image of Crass — a nudie shot! — after the jump.
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Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis  

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17 May 2010

Sam Lipsyte’s America. ALSO, how Woody Allen, Bob Dylan & LCD Soundsystem approach American decadence with a similar sense of humor.


Image of Sam Lipsyte with son via Flickr.

I’ve been a huge fan of New York novelist Sam Lipsyte since reading his pretty much unimpeachable 2004 novel Homeland. His new novel, The Ask, is that rare bit of fiction whose publication I anticipated eagerly.

His work is laugh-out-loud funny — rare for the pinched world of literary fiction — but also on the pulsebeat of culture. His punchlines are not only humor for the sake of humor; they are the horrified, cackling, self-conscious crack-up of an insightful artist who understands that laughter is, perhaps, the best reaction an intelligent citizen can have in the face of our culture’s decadent decline. Viz Woody Allen’s New York films of the 1970s, Bob Dylan’s increasingly ridiculous culture-bombing gambits, and whatever it is that LCD Soundsystem are doing these days. Some illustrations, below:

Woody Allen’s coke scene in Annie Hall

Bob Dylan’s Victoria’s Secret advert

LCD Soundsystem’s “Drunk Girls” video by Spike Jonze

Unfortunately I don’t think Lipsyte’s new book coheres in the same way as Homeland did. The Ask lacks both a convincing plot and the devastatingly clever literary conceit that elevated that book. (Homeland took the form of inappropriate, intimate letters to a high school alumni newsletter, 20 years after graduation.) And, finally, this new book’s conclusions are depressing in a way that seemed more exhausted than insightful. It’s as if Lipsyte was so tired of living with these characters he preferred they collapse at the end of the book rather than come upon some germ of real truth or real meaning.

That said, I never stopped laughing and you will be hard pressed to find new piece of fiction that better investigates matters that actually reflect and refract what’s going on in our culture today. Read more »

Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis  

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