Monday, October 03, 2011

This new Chuck Eddy anthology is TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!

Have I mentioned I'm a Chuck Eddy fan? Among the sentences I purged from this review at the L.A. Review of Books was something akin to, "The Accidental Evolution of Rock & Roll [Eddy's 1997 manifesto] served as my I Ching for, like, a decade." Thankfully, the L.A. Review of Books spurred me to better things. Like this tantalizing sample paragraph-and-a-half:

 Because Eddy has turned me on to more good music than anyone else, I tend to look the other way when his writing exhausts me. This has worked out pretty well. He’ll obsessively quote and adapt lyrics, huffing and puffing his way through loooong paragraphs on Kid Rock and Eminem; he’ll insist that “Gina G breathily metronomes too-childlike-to-be-suggestive ‘ooh aah’s as if she were a Kit-Cat clock ticking and tocking its way to the bank, its Cheshire smile bursting with catnip.” As my derailed mind starts sinking under the weight of all that junk masquerading as energy, it’s saved by one pure, shining thought: This Gina G song is gonna be good. I know this not from the description, but simply because Eddy says so. Chuck Klosterman writes in Rock and Roll’s foreword, “[T]he music he likes makes him impossible to understand. If you want to understand Chuck Eddy for real, you need to focus on the music he hates.” But Klosterman is wrong. Eddy’s taste, as expressed in his writing and his lists of favorite music, is as internally unified yet uncanny as the actions of a Tolstoy character. You can predict what Eddy will think of something, and you’ll often be wrong, but what he actually thinks will always make more sense, will fit Eddy’s written persona better, than what you had in mind. Eddy’s taste has a deep coherence that’s close to unique among rock critics; Robert Christgau and Rob Sheffield come close, but I don’t share their taste nearly as often.

 ...Most current rock critics get paid peanuts-to-nothing for their writing, but when it’s not awash in petulant insults, our vast internet ocean of gatekeeperless freedom reads mostly like auditions for The Real Thing, or straightlaced ad copy, or studious analyses of Important Themes In Arcade Fire Albums. Exceptions exist, particularly across blogs that invite conversation. (Eddy’s ’87 critique of Forced Exposure reads like half of a Tumblr spat.) But holy cow — especially if you’re not getting paid for a review, why not write like you’ve got nothing to lose, and then have the courage to invite dissent? At his paid and unpaid best, that’s what Chuck Eddy has done for 25 years. He don’t give a damn what other people think. What do you think about that?

 [That last bit, about the poor ambitions of free online writing, is a subject I've harped on before, in my review of Margaret Atwood's Surfacing.] [Good book, go read it.] [Eddy's AND Atwood's, I mean. Given the choice I'd probably go with Atwood's, though it's not as long.]

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