by carl wilson

And When Instinct Goes, You Use Force

No column today due to (very slight) infirmity and summertime blues, but to tide you over there is a chunky little review of the Sadies' best album ever. A bit odder than it should have been, due to perhaps a tad overzealous editing by one of the summer interns, but as I told her after the bleeding stopped, that's actually more stimulating than the standard under-editing. (If only I hadn't overlooked a few of the cuts and unfortunate rewordings she slipped by me while I was arguing for her to restore the rest of the text.)

This question of editing prompts a sidebar: Contrary to what Terry Teachout argues in regards to the Leon Wieseltier-Nicholson Baker debacle in the NYT Book Review last weekend, in no way does a publication agree that it will publish whatever a "professional writer" (however you define that) submits in response to a commission, untouched and unchallenged. The editor's job is certainly not to censor the writer's opinions, however lamebrained, but it is definitely to say whether the assignment has been adequately fulfilled and whether the piece in question upholds the journal's standards of craft. The correct answer in Teachout's quiz is not "G" but "D", though I prefer to say the goal is to substantiate the rhetoric, not "tone down."

I do sympathize with editors who decide to let an article pass rather than go through a carnage-heavy battle, but that doesn't mean it was the editor's moral obligation to shrug off his duty. How do you say it? "Listen, Leon, if you want to argue that this novel is 'scummy', I think you are obliged to spend more time actually addressing the novel. Rewrite please." And then, only under your breath, "you asshole."

That's the professional way. And so my young adversary on the editing desk this week was doing her duty as both of us saw it; we simply disagreed about whether I was a bad writer or she a poor reader. End of sidebar.

Back to the album: To say it's the Sadies' best disc ever is to damn with faint praise, as their albums have generally been pale shadows of the live shows. By trying to make something utterly unlike the live show they acquit themselves far better. Even if (a point I didn't press in the review) there's rather too much retro-psychedelia on here for my tastes. They've given Robyn Hitchcock one of his best non-Soft Boys songs in years, though.

Also in the paper this week: Mrs. Zoilus (Sheila Heti) is quoted in this article about a comically unsuccessful attempt at cross-Canadian literary collaboration.

And watch this weekend for my long delayed piece on "Lit Rock" - novelists' collaborations with bands, pegged to One Ring Zero's complex anthology-cum-album As Smart As We Are with lyrics by 17 different authors (Soft Skull Press, available at bookstores not CD shops generally) but also projects by Neal Pollack, Chris Ewen of Future Bible Heroes, the late Warren Zevon etc. etc. Is all rock Lit Rock? Find out on the cover of The Globe and Mail's Review section on Saturday. In the same section I think are my minireviews of Madvillain, Spring Heel Jack and Mission of Burma for a midyear CD roundup.

And here endeth the self-promo.

The Writ | Posted by zoilus on Thursday, August 12 at 10:30 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (0)


Zoilus by Carl Wilson