R.I.P.: Michel Jouvet

I knew only bits about his remarkable career. My mother was fascinated by dreams and astrology (thought they were related in some way I could never quite understand — dreams predict the future, maybe). But for her (born 1910) and my father (born 1890) dreams were utterly mysterious, unexplained in any way. (The one item I most wish I could find in my mother’s possessions is her paperback The Dictionary of Dreams — it’s a kind of lost fantasy compendium.) Neither had read Freud, but he’s gone more into the wastebin than I imagined way back when. So Jouvet’s work is very profound.

But why do dolphins and whales not dream?

R.I.P.: Hef

A very thorough and fair assessment.

Two points:

When I thought of him at all (very infrequently since I graduated from college) I wondered how much he might have wished to pass from the scene when his empire was, so to speak, more potent portent than it became.

The aspect I respected and praised throughout was that he paid writers and artists serious money — I didn’t care about the motives, it elevated the game.

A sharp, more corrosive remembrance jam.

R.I.P.: Kate Millett

Cornerstone spirit and thinker. I had puttered around in The Second Sex during my exploration of French lit in high school, but ultimately found it too arty and indirect (the translation seemed terrible, too). Millett’s Sexual Politics came right out and said it. Unless you were a sex-stereotyper yourself, her arguments were undeniable. That my mother had always been a working professional probably helped my understanding. Also had a growing conviction that “the Revolution” was freeing men while leaving women in chains.

R.I.P.: Walter Becker/Steely Dan

Steeky

Becker and Fagen would be first to say Steely Dan were a rock and roll future that never came to pass. The saddest aspect of their shortfall is that the more you had listened to, the more you appreciated what Steely Dan was on about. One of my greatest frustrations as a popular music critic is that I’m not happy with anything I wrote about the Dan. The only outright botch was my misguided rave for Fagen’s Kamakiriad (though it does still have its believers). And I did get it more or less right that Two Against Nature was quite an accomplishment after such a hiatus and was artistic justice. But probably the best I ever did for the band was during my first record-store job in Boston, where I convinced the owners that Aja was not just for hipsters but would be a hit and sure as hell would be more fun to play than the millionth repetition of Saturday Night Fever or (shudder) Dark Side of the Moon.

Anyway, I think this is as good as possible to do with Steely Dan and that, yeah, it does help to be from NY.

R.I.P.: Brian Aldiss

I recommend Trillion Year Spree to anybody who might remotely be interested.

Due no doubt to some failure of my literary imagination, I have a hard time with a lot of his other works. (Thought Non-Stop was boring as hell, tried to get started with the Helliconia Triology several times without success.) But I do want to hail two short stories — “Let’s Be Frank” (very original idea) and “Supertoys Last All Summer Long” (you can read the whole thing from a link in the obit), very different from the film “A.I.,” more of a mere inspiration, both works engrossing in their own way.

R.I.P.: John Abercrombie

A guitarist who eluded all categories.

My tribute soundtrack this afternoon is

Sargasso

I know everything from Timeless to the Gateway albums are objectively richer, more varied works, but this is a subjective personal fave, since it was the first Abercrombie I heard.

I had just moved to Cambridge and was often agitated in heart and soul. This record could leave me not merely calm, but contemplative. Playing it now is like reading an old letter from a friend. (I agree that the follow-up, Five Years Later, is nowhere as good.)