In interviews you’ve spoken disparagingly about what you call “Kiddiebookland,” the kingdom of saccharine, squeaky-clean books that depict children as innocent and guileless. Why do the authors and publishers of these books misjudge children and childhood?
Well, when a kid writes to me—as a kid did write to me—and says: “I hate your book. I hope you die soon. Cordially.” Well, the combination of “I hope you die soon” and “cordially” is wonderful. It shows how bewildering the whole thing was to her—and to me.
She was allowing herself to hate. “I hate your book.” But she’d learned in school that you’re supposed to end your letter with the words “cordially” or “best wishes.” And so they combine both without thinking there’s something goofy in such a thing. But that’s their charm, and that’s what we lose by growing up—lose, lose, lose. And if we’re lucky, it happens again when we’re old. And I’d like to believe that it is happening to me. Things that were so wonderful to me come back now. And I’m so grateful—because I wouldn’t know how to start otherwise. But it’s happening.
8:55 am • 8 May 2012 • 1 note
“Twenty-six years ago it would have been difficult to believe that someone could write seven paragraphs about the Beastie Boys without a single mention of race, and it still shouldn’t be entirely ignored. When Licensed to Ill became the best-selling rap album of all time it prompted (well-founded) accusations that skin color had allowed the group to jump the line. The triumph of Paul’s Boutique was partly a triumph of belonging: If Licensed to Ill was the best record ever made by a white rap group, Paul’s Boutique was one of the best records ever made by a rap group, period, and the first to render that qualifier unnecessary. In the wake of MCA’s passing, some folks have remarked that the Beastie Boys made it cool to be white, or some variation on this, an intelligible sentiment that I think is pretty wrong. The Beastie Boys made it cool to aggressively treat being white as a meaningless condition, a crucially different and far better thing. I was 12 years old when Check Your Head came out, and it didn’t teach me that my whiteness was cool—it taught me that great music was infinitely more interesting than the color of anyone’s skin. I learned the exact same thing from A Tribe Called Quest, who, it should be said, loved the Beastie Boys too.”
— Glad to have this piece by Jack Hamilton on MCA.
10:19 am • 7 May 2012 • 1 note
“There’s a big and very important difference, it seems to me, between “personal” criticism that’s using art as a kind of thematic center around which to write a memoir or personal essay, which is either not-criticism or not-good criticism, and criticism fundamentally about art that is open and honest about the critic’s personal experience. That doesn’t mean you can’t talk about yourself, or even that you can’t talk about yourself at length; it’s just that this has to be in some way about your relationship with the piece of art and what that says about art, not what it says about you. Give us something we can use for our own experience of art, not just a well-written Amazon review.”
(pasting this onto my wall, into email signatures, etc.)
(Source: katherinestasaph, via barthel)
11:12 am • 5 May 2012 • 45 notes
My belated fanboy letter to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot for its 10th birthday
3. Fun fact: in 2004, the author of The Atlantic piece above and I went to the same journalism summer program/camp. On the first day, I saw he was wearing a Radiohead t-shirt and I did something high-school me never did…actually talked to someone I didn’t know! Eventually we flipped through one another’s Case Logic binders…which both included Yankee Hotel Foxtrot…and suddenly we had more to talk about. It also helped that during that summer Wilco got on the cover of SPIN.
He ended up being my college roommate and is one of my closest friends now so…thanks Wilco!
I hate to rain on any of this Patrick because really the vibes are great, but didn’t we actually bond over Ghost is Born? I feel like we did. And Jamba Juice.
6:09 am • 4 May 2012 • 8 notes
I listen to this literally every day at work when I need to tune the office out and get into editing mode. Don’t even know if that speaks to its greatness or just that it’s muzak I’ve allowed myself to like. But yeah, a certain kind of bliss.
2:08 pm • 1 May 2012
Rawktumblr: Things I've Learned
1) Health comes first.
Somewhere between graduating college and my second job, I gained about 10 pounds. Hangovers got worse. I was constantly tired. All of these things are still applicable. But I started eating better and working out occasionally and generally trying not to die of a heart attack at 55. One thing about healthy food: you start eating vegetables every day, you start to like them. Eating cows is basically terrible for cows, the planet, and our bodies, so I make that a special event. I have no interest in being vegetarian but something’s better than nothing, right? Also: totally obvious, but feeling good and well-rested and mentally sharp makes everything else much easier.
2) Habits control our lives.
Crush the bad ones and start up the good ones. Flossing. Push-ups. Saying “I love you.” Stop smoking. Go from there.
3) Life’s not a meritocracy.
Life is more like 50% networking, 25% having people like you, 15% resume, 10% talent. Sorry. But the lesson here is a good one: work hard and make sure people are paying attention.
Cosign literally all 27 of these.
11:59 am • 26 April 2012 • 59 notes
At first, hip-hop was an exercise in musical distillation. It freed words and music from their melodic obligations, leaving only the barest form of rhythm. But almost immediately after that big bang, musicality slowly seeped back in. Rappers cribbed notes from R&B and dancehall and pop, sporadically re-inserting that genetic material into hip-hop’s DNA. Very few of these fusionists could sing by traditional standards, but they compensated with magnetic deliveries and outsider charm. And over time, standards of good singing warped exponentially, each new iteration stranger than the next. It’s as if rap, after first stripping itself down, has spent the four decades since piecing itself back together from jumbled fragments, like a head-trauma patient reconstructing his memory, or an alien ship piecing together a scrambled transmission.
Future is the latest in this long line of aliens, and he’d probably be quite proud of that distinction. The Atlanta MC raps infrequently on his commercial debut, Pluto, and yet it’s a record that, in cultural terms, can only be defined as a rap album. He leans hard into all those post-Lil Wayne clichés — goofily aligned punch lines, spaced-out drug analogies, dope-boy boasts, designer name-drops — but delivers them in a strained, melismatic warble, drenched in Auto-Tune and constantly cracking. Imagine P-Funk’s Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk re-imagined by Mike Patton, but with unbridled swagger replacing any semblance of pitch or poise. The closest precedent for this approach is probably Wayne’s drowning 2007 mixtape ballad “Prostitute Flange,” but Future pushes past even that level of oddity. It sounds as if he’s purposely affecting a Wayne-esque studio-treated water-gargle before the actual effect is added to his voice. He’s mutating the mutation. And it often sounds magnificent.
— Haven’t listened to Future yet, but this makes me want to.
12:20 pm • 24 April 2012