I read various music blogs, some of them on Blogger. Today I was looking up another person's bio, and I realized that I probably had a Blogger bio, because I had a picture - but I hadn't looked at it in ages. Probably before my stroke.
So I looked. And I did have a bio (the same one that I have here); but I also had a aborted blog: Another Thick Square Blog, which is a great name for a blog, and I shouldn't have punted it. And there was one post, dated 10 April 2008:
Always scribble, scribble, scribble, eh, Mr Gibbon? Scribble scribble scribble Mr Gibbon Gibbon Gibbon. Scribblin' gibbon. Can you say that, Mr Gibbon? Eh? Scribblin' scribblin' scribblin' gibblon. It's a bit of a tongue workout, eh, Mr Gibbon? Mr Gibblon gabblin' gobblin' Gibbon. Eh? Eh? You're a good sport Mr Gibbon, I always say. Thanks for the book.
I don't think I took a Blogger blog seriously....
Hewlett married Hilda Beatrice Herbert on 3 January 1888 in St. Peter's Church, Vauxhall, where her father was the incumbent vicar. The couple had two children, a daughter, Pia, and a son, Francis, but separated in 1914, partly due to Hilda's increasing interest in aviation.
--Wikipedia: Maurice Hewlett
While my opinion runs counter to the critical consensus, it has nothing to do with unusual bravery and insight on my part, or cowardice and conventionality on the part of my colleagues. I'm just a bit odd.
I know some of you dislike Garrison Keillor very much. I've never been a huge Prairie Home Companion fan myself, though I like it well enough; I'm not a huge Lake Wobegon fan either, though I think it is widely misunderstood and that a critical and bitter thread running through it is pretty obvious if you aren't already sure of what you're going to be told.
As an essayist -- as a parodist and observer -- I love Keillor. I wish I'd seen his dismantling of Bernard-Henri Levy's American Vertigo when it originally appeared in the New York Times in January, but I'm happy enough to see it now (via Making Light via Matthew Yglesias via Movering). It's the nearly transparent sort of criticism that exposes the fatuity of the work under review largely through summary and quotes, playing out length after length of rope:
In New Orleans, a young woman takes off her clothes on a balcony as young men throw Mardi Gras beads up at her. We learn that much of the city is below sea level. At the stock car race, Lévy senses that the spectators "both dread and hope for an accident." We learn that Los Angeles has no center and is one of the most polluted cities in the country. "Headed for Virginia, and for Norfolk, which is, if I'm not mistaken, one of the oldest towns in a state that was one of the original 13 in the union," Lévy writes. Yes, indeed. He likes Savannah and gets delirious about Seattle, especially the Space Needle, which represents for him "everything that America has always made me dream of: poetry and modernity, precariousness and technical challenge, lightness of form meshed with a Babel syndrome, city lights, the haunting quality of darkness, tall trees of steel." O.K., fine. The Eiffel Tower is quite the deal, too.
Levy is full of received idiocy about America and Americans, blown up into caricature: for example Levy seems to have taken American intellectuals' own oatmeal-headed intonings about baseball as America's religion a bit too seriously:
"[T]his sport that contributes to establishing people's identities and that has truly become part of their civic and patriotic religion, which is baseball" [...] [W]hen, visiting Cooperstown ("this new Nazareth"), he finds out that Commissioner Bud Selig once laid a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington, where Abner Doubleday is also buried, Lévy goes out of his mind. An event important only to Selig and his immediate family becomes, to Lévy, an official proclamation "before the eyes of America and the world" of Abner as "the pope of the national religion . . . that day not just the town but the entire United States joined in a celebration that had the twofold merit of associating the national pastime with the traditional rural values that Fenimore Cooper's town embodies and also with the patriotic grandeur that the name Doubleday bears." Uh, actually not. Negatory on "pope" and "national" and "entire" and "most" and "embodies" and "Doubleday."
When Levy isn't pondering ponderously about What America Means -- nothing new, evidently -- he's marveling at the freak show and collecting bumper stickers,
with stops at Las Vegas to visit a lap-dancing club and a brothel; Beverly Hills; Dealey Plaza in Dallas; Bourbon Street in New Orleans; Graceland; a gun show in Fort Worth; a "partner-swapping club" in San Francisco with a drag queen with mammoth silicone breasts; the Iowa State Fair ("a festival of American kitsch"); Sun City ("gilded apartheid for the old");a stock car race; the Mall of America; Mount Rushmore; a couple of evangelical megachurches; the Mormons of Salt Lake; some Amish; the 2004 national political conventions; Alcatraz - you get the idea. (For some reason he missed the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, the adult video awards, the grave site of Warren G. Harding and the World's Largest Ball of Twine.) You meet Sharon Stone and John Kerry and a woman who once weighed 488 pounds and an obese couple carrying rifles, but there's nobody here whom you recognize. In more than 300 pages, nobody tells a joke. Nobody does much work. Nobody sits and eats and enjoys their food. You've lived all your life in America, never attended a megachurch or a brothel, don't own guns, are non-Amish, and it dawns on you that this is a book about the French.
To Keillor, Levy's writing is a series of overinflated balloons:
[G]ood Lord, the childlike love of paradox - America is magnificent but mad, greedy and modest, drunk with materialism and religiosity, puritan and outrageous, facing toward the future and yet obsessed with its memories. Americans' party loyalty is "very strong and very pliable, extremely tenacious and in the end somewhat empty." Existential and yet devoid of all content and direction. The partner-swapping club is both "libertine" and "conventional," "depraved" and "proper." And so the reader is fascinated and exhausted by Lévy's tedious and original thinking: "A strong bond holds America together, but a minimal one. An attachment of great force, but not fiercely resolute. A place of high - extremely high - symbolic tension, but a neutral one, a nearly empty one." And what's with the flurries of rhetorical questions? Is this how the French talk or is it something they save for books about America? "What is a Republican? What distinguishes a Republican in the America of today from a Democrat?" Lévy writes, like a student padding out a term paper. "What does this experience tell us?" he writes about the Mall of America. "What do we learn about American civilization from this mausoleum of merchandise, this funeral accumulation of false goods and nondesires in this end-of-the-world setting? What is the effect on the Americans of today of this confined space, this aquarium, where only a semblance of life seems to subsist?" And what is one to make of the series of questions - 20 in a row - about Hillary Clinton, in which Lévy implies she is seeking the White House to erase the shame of the Lewinsky affair? Was Lévy aware of the game 20 Questions, commonly played on long car trips in America? Are we to read this passage as a metaphor of American restlessness? Does he understand how irritating this is? Does he? Do you? May I stop now?
Yes, thanks. I'm sorry for quoting so much of this; I didn't know where to stop.