Twilight of the Headbangers

This brilliant rumination on what it means to persevere and grow old in rock in roll was written before Lemmy died, from The Atlantic:

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“There is a second prime, we are discovering, in the life cycle of a rock-and-roller, a madder and more precarious second heyday. The potency of early manhood passes, and its beauty is a memory. Barely a blip now travels around the once-blazing circuit of your inspiration. Your bones ache, your voice is shot, and the rags of age are upon you. But you keep going. You keep playing. And gradually this becomes the thing about you: You’re still there. You endure, you defy, and the older and gnarlier you get, the more magnificent the rebellion is. Creaking recklessly, in swaggering infirmity, you sally forth; you hit the road again and again (and again) and you give the people what they want. And now, check it out, they don’t just worship you. Now they love you…

“But when it’s done—and it’s almost done—there will be no more Anguses, no more Lemmys. The bloody-minded, death-demolishing longevity of AC/DC and Motörhead cannot be counterfeited or repeated…And now he’s disappearing into the dark wings of the stage, taking with him his grave-digger wit and his gnashing bass and the gorgeous, ruinous momentum of his music.”

Tennyson put it this way:

“Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

The Parish and the Universe

“To know fully even one field or one land is a lifetime’s experience… a gap in the hedge, a smooth rock surfacing a narrow lane, a view of a woody meadow, the stream at the junction of four small fields – these are as much as a man can fully experience.”

Patrick Kavanaugh, “The Parish and the Universe”,  as quoted in the frontispiece of “Common Ground“, by Rob Cowen

What’s the use
Of being found?
You can lose yourself
In some good ground
In the weeds hiding
Down the river right next door
There’s no frame around your picture
Just a view through my back door

Beck, Country Down

 

John McFee on Writing by Omission

From The New Yorker, Sept. 14th, John McFee tells it like it is:

“When you are deciding what to leave out, begin with the author. If you see yourself prancing around between subject and reader, get lost. Give elbow room to the creative reader. In other words, to the extent that this is all about you, leave that out….

Creative nonfiction is a term that is currently having its day. When I was in college, anyone who put those two words together would have been looked on as a comedian or a fool…What is creative about nonfiction? It takes a whole semester to try to answer that, but here are a few points: The creativity lies in what you choose to write about, how you go about doing it, the arrangement through which you present things, the skill and the touch with which you describe people and succeed in developing them as characters, the rhythms of your prose, the integrity of the composition, the anatomy of the piece (does it get up and walk around on its own?), the extent to which you see and tell the story that exists in your material, and so forth. Creative nonfiction is not making something up but making the most of what you have.”

He knew not what to do

From LRB, an old piece about Coleridge, and how it might have been better had he died young:samuelcoleridge

He knew not what to do – something, he felt, must be done – he rose, drew his writing-desk before him – sate down, took the pen – – found that he knew not what to do.

After the first glorious days of his friendship with Wordsworth, Coleridge set about – or perhaps only resumed – a course of procrastination and ruin from which it seemed decent to avert one’s eyes. His life grew complicated and his poetry sparse, and his achievement took forms that required sometimes unreasonable effort to value.

In December he recognised that ‘I never had the essentials of poetic Genius, – that I mistook a strong desire for original power.’ By March 1801, Coleridge had decided it was all over: ‘The Poet is dead in me.’

Diski and Doris

Jenny Diski, whose work I have always admired, has begun a sort of memoir over on LRB, and this is the second or third installment  of the story of her life with Doris Lessing, who took Jenny in as troubled teen, age 15 or so.  Anyway, I love this:

“For weeks I listened intently to the table-talk, not daring to join the conversation, not having anything to say, and wondering where and how one acquired opinions, so many and that seemed to come so easily. We left cinemas and theatres, Doris and her friends and me tagging along, and before we were out in the street, they were sharing their judgments of what they’d seen. It was a matter of whether things ‘worked’, how exactly they had failed or succeeded. Nothing was expected to be perfect, so the conversation was about the way in which things worked and didn’t and a judgment was made on the balance. Details of mise-en-scène and dialogue were picked out and weighed. On the other hand, Brando was preposterous as Fletcher Christian and wrecked whatever chance there was of it being a good film. How did they know such things? How did they make so many different angles relevant to their final analysis? And how were they so expert and so sure?”

This notion of “taste” (as Diski goes on to explore it) did not come naturally to the young lady.  In fact, I would wager that it does not come naturally to most people, who view films (and tv and books) as entertainment, first and last.  This is a very revealing transformation, noticed by a 15 year old girl, moving in new circles.