Novelists In The News

Rick Moody’s new Diviners looks good to me. I almost always like his eponymously moody books, which carry Raymond Carver’s emotionally charged minimalism into the age of MTV and CNN.

However, I can’t approve of a short essay in which he tells us he is tired of rock music. He unwittingly reveals the real problem when he cites Sonic Youth and Nels Cline as the kind of music he approves of. Forget that critically-acclaimed college-radio fancy stuff, which was never very exciting in the first place. I took my son to see System of a Down last month, and based on that evidence alone: yes, there are still excellent new bands doing excellent new things. Rick just has to stop trying to be all cool.

Another novelist in the news is Jonathan Lethem, who just won the very lucrative and highly desired MacArthur Fellowship grant, along with numerous cell biologists, theoretical chemists and economists. Which means at this moment there are hundreds of hip novelists around the world saying “Why him and not me?”

They’re right. I read Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn and it rang phony to me the whole way through. I’d rather see Rick Moody win this grant, musical snob or not.

One Response

  1. I couldn’t agree more…I
    I couldn’t agree more…

    I don’t believe that his assertion that Sonic Youth is “rock-n-roll” is the root of the problem as much as his admission at the end of the piece that he is middle aged in mind as well as body. Rock (rock-n-roll died w/ Chuck Berry & Elvis & rockabilly) has graduated from 3 chords & distortion. It is over 50 years old now & is past it’s clumsy adolescence, but you still cannot view rock w/ middle aged eyes. Even punk is corporate now (ain’t that an oxymoronic bite in the keyster)since Nirvana Beatalized the genre. I need only mention Green Day to bear out my point. Rock is no longer soley about getting laid, driving in cars, & being the new kid in town. The new kid is in his twenties now & is angered at his existentialist fate. Rock belongs to a new breed of older more literate rockers such as System Of A Down, Tool/A Perfect Circle, NIN, Velvet Revolver & Korn, & younger more agressive bands such as Disturbed. There is nothing wrong with the state of Rock, only the unchanging attitudes of those who critique it & yearn for their lost Youth, hence Mr. Moody’s allusion to the fact that he likes ancient Stones still trying to hold onto their own youth. I believe the key to enjoying rock is to in fact allow yourself to grow with the music, not stay ruefully looking backwards at that which once was.

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