by carl wilson

Modest Throat-Clearing Sound

SFJ and Alex Ross linked with kind words to my Lit Rock piece, which makes having punched through a soggy midsummer writer's block on it feel very worthwhile.

A bit of a response to Sasha's comment: "When Wilson reaches the idea of 'lit hop,' and wonders why there's no such thing, I felt an involuntary response burp out: 'There's already a lit-hop. It's called hip-hop.' " For sure. But I didn't "wonder" why there was no hip-hop, I said there was "conspicuously no such thing" - and the reason is of course the one Sasha evinces, that hip-hop is already logocentric - in a way that's of its time and mass vernacular - so nobody feels the need to go begging for a supplement, just the way that nobody in rock felt that urge for the first 35 years.

In fact hip-hop has basically already given the world a literary form, rather than the other way around - slam poetry and most of what gets called "spoken word" has its source in hip-hop, and there's more than a few performers who do both. (Ursula Rucker for example.)

So yeah, lit rock is rock's own private sideshow. If hip-hop eventually started to senesce on a similar pattern, I dunno if (for various historically contingent reasons) novelists would be the crutch they'd reach for - watch out if a lot of black stand-ups start guesting on hip-hop tracks, maybe. (On the other hand there's always Cornel West's tenure-slaying rap album to think about, so no one has cause to get complacent.)

I'm less on the bus with SFJ's other point - that " indie rockers are reaching out to writers ... because rock lyrics have sucked such massive ass in the last 15 years." Post-alt indie has seen a typical lot of suckage but also some of the best rock lyrics ever, with writers who, among other things, are influenced by contemporary poetry (and rap) rather than by, for instance, romantic poetry in the 1960s and 1970s or beatnik 1950s stuff in the 1980s. The lit's often been the best part of the rock in the past 15 years, though that's a sad statement to make. (On the other hand, here's a cheap joke that can bolster all who think otherwise.) I think indie rockers are reaching out to writers because now they're basically the same sort of people, so there's suddenly an appeal. Chris Ewen said he did it basically because he's used to working with Stephin Merritt (who's a damn fine lyricist whatever else SFJ thinks of him) and had high standards for what kind of lyrics he wanted to work with.

Rock lyrics have been a pretty dire problem all along, at least post-Beatles, when it started to matter. It was probably at its worst with prog-rock (Yes and Rush lyrics are not only as bad as lyrics get, they're about as bad as anything gets). But trust me, most of the novelist brigade can't do much better.

Sasha also links to an excellent essay by DJ/Rupture. This paragraph in particular sums up a lot of why I started Tin Tin Tin -

"I�m fascinated by the frame-breaking possibilities of turntablism and sampling; but at the same time, I�m starting to view sampling as a very lazy gesture�innocent at best, creepily segregationist at worst. For example, if you�re sampling a sitar CD, it generally means that you can�t find�or can�t be bothered to look for�someone who actually plays the instrument. Sampling maintains cultural distance; collaborations require closeness. The difference is huge. It�s the difference between one-way cultural flow and the kind of dialogue that could lead to real community."

- but the rest is very worthwhile too. Also check out Alex's definitive Bjork piece in this week's New Yorker. I'm still reading it but might have some stuff to say tomorrow.

The Writ | Posted by zoilus on Thursday, August 19 at 11:53 PM | Linking Posts




Zoilus by Carl Wilson