I read the book in a couple weeks then write a review in an afternoon. I feel hungover afterwards. All those hours spent with Hollywood monsters, now they’re gone and something or someone needs to take their place. But even when I was still immersed there was some resentment building up at the outer edges of my consciousness.
A couple things. The first is that when I know I’m writing a review the reading/watching/listening is already kind of ruined. The assignment establishes an artificial endpoint to the experience and kills a lot of the potential joy. Because knowing I’m expected to file a reaction can’t help but fuck up the magic. Doesn’t matter how brilliant my little book report turns out. Like dog piss in fresh fallen snow what criticism does to art is irreversible.
I don’t know that there’s any way around it but I want to acknowledge that when I play at journalism I always feel like a traitor. Selling out the thing that means the most to me. It’s so much better when no reaction is required. Well, not no reaction but no public pronouncement. No matter how humble or circumspect, a review assumes the false premise that it’s equal to the thing it rates or judges. Don’t know why this plagues me so much but it does.
The other day I was at a concert in an art gallery. Outside afterwards a guy comes up and asks for my review of what we’ve just heard. I don’t know what to say. Blurt out something flippant to make him go away. Maybe that I don’t review music. It bothers me that my take would interest anybody. I remember being irritated in elementary school when a teacher assigned book reports. My instinctive reaction was: read the fucking book yourself!
Even though I make part of my living writing glorified book reports, deep down the bad feeling about it has never gone away.
Right after filing the Bruce Wagner book report I switch gears to writing a review of Roscoe Mitchell’s art show. Mitchell is a world-renowned musician having his first show at eighty-two. So many mixed feelings wrapped up in this one.
The thing of a famous person playing at something different than what made them famous eats at anyone who’s not famous for anything. How could it not? It’s a thing that grates at any lifer, no matter their field. Somebody waltzing through doors we spend decades banging our heads against.
The challenge of writing a fair review in this case is how to keep the personal feelings at bay. I’m grateful Mitchell’s paintings aren’t awful, otherwise this would be a pill much harder to swallow. Still a bit of a trial especially considering it’s an assignment I volunteered, even lobbied, for.
That’s the strangest thing about my ambivalence at playing for the other team. I know it’s wrong but can’t help wanting to continue, to get better opportunities. I get ticked off that some other writer gets to cover a book/play/show/movie I’m interested in. But why get mad when I have so little respect for the job? It’s kind of like the time I ended up in tears after not getting first violin in All Town Honors Orchestra. I hated playing that instrument every second of the eight years I was made to do so but when I was passed up for a spot meant for someone who loved the thing and cared (and practiced), I couldn’t come to terms with the injustice of it all.
Takes talent to be so ridiculous.
RIP Tom Verlaine. Think I listened to “Marquee Moon” more than any other record in high school and many many times since. No band sounded quite like Television.
If you go to Constellation sometime, check out my collages at the bar. Was very happy to see them up the other day.