Journalism/Criticism/Literature Bucket List Check-Off

My first published review was of Tom Robbins’s debut novel, Another Roadside Attraction. I am proud to say I got it pretty much right, claimed the guy would become wildly popular and have a flashy career.

So when I read that Robbins stated he found his voice when he wrote a 1967 review of a Doors concert for the alternative paper in Seattle, I had to track it down and read it. I mean, a favorite part of my career was spent doing the exact same sort of piece for the exact same sort of outlet!

So this afternoon there it was, in Wild Ducks Flying Backward: The Short Writings of Tom Robbins.

Yes, that would be doors. But, my God, what doors are these? Imagine jewel glass panels, knobs that resemble spitting phalluses, mail slots that glow like jack-o’-lantern lips — and not a welcome mat in sight. Enter if you dare, my children, exit if you can.

The Doors. Their style is early cunnilingual, late patricidal, lunchtime in the Everglades, Black Forest blood sausage on electrified bread, Jean Genet up a totem pole, artists at the barricades, Edgar Allen Poe drowning in his birdbath, Massacre of the Innocents, tarantella of the satyrs, bacchanalian, Dionysian, LA pagans drawing down the moon.

That’s that voice, alrighty.

I like to dream that, had I been Music Editor at the Helix in ’67, I would have had the insight to run that as is — evocative, funny, worthy of Jimbo and the Boys.

My Fondest Memory of CNN

I got the flash when everybody else did — the Gulf War start in 1991. Sure, CNN had been around in the ’80s, but whenever I tuned in, it suggested a dozy news-radio station. The quality of the reporting and the vitality of the channel as a whole went way up.

How the exciting have fallen.

Cable news is rightly damned for their ruinous decline into reporting as entertainment click-bait shouting match. All I will say — and its not really a defense — is that the basics of what CNN used to do best would now be available on everybody’s smart phone.

 

The NY Times’ Freaky Fixation on the Clintons

Charlie provides an invaluable reminder of the weirdest case of journalistic fixation I can think of. Welcome note of what a rodent William Saffire was, too. I though he might be the last of a dying McCarthyite breed, but nooooooo.

The broadest explanation I’ve run across is a regional/cultural disdain that grows ever more repulsive: who do these Arkansas lumps — her with the fumpy dresses, him with the fast-food and shades and saxophone — think they are trying to run a country that’s crowned by Manhattan? They’re too seedy to not be guilty of something. And we’ll find out what that is if it takes 50 years and we have to make it all up.

Yech.

R.I.P.: Robert B. Silvers

The New York Review of Books and the Village Voice were the bookends of my literary fantasies about New York and the East Coast in general, back when I had never been out here. Brainy/wild — lively/civilized … they could make you feel less lonely out in the thickets and ranges. One aspect I most admired about NY Review is that it was thorough.

TrumpTrumpTrumpTrumpTrumpTrump — Another Thing To Dump

An important piece by Farhad Manjoo. The stupid tabloid mentality of too many news outlets now plays right into a tyrant’s agenda.

Here’s a key passage:

Unlike old-school media, today’s media works according to social feedback loops. Every story that shows any signs of life on Facebook or Twitter is copied endlessly by every outlet, becoming unavoidable.

On a horrid December week many years ago when John Lennon was assassinated, The Real Paper in Cambridge made a journalistic misjudgement as off-base as any I’ve ever encountered. The reasoning went: “Everybody is going to feature John Lennon. Let’s do Christmas instead.” The depth of the mistake is evident in picking a trivial automatic subject over a profoundly necessary one. Likewise, we now lack any focus on what’s important: “Trump’s popular. Cover Trump. Trump’s popular. Cover Trump.”

It’s been pretty clear in other countries that the actions, not the blithering blabber of the current tyrant, is what needs to be covered. What is the source and nature of all this rising savagery about “immigrants”?