Sunday, January 2, 2011

Juliet, Naked - Day 2

There are three authors that, when I read them, both enchant and dismay me in equal parts. They are, in no particular order, Chuck Palahniuk, Chuck Klosterman and Nick Hornby. All three of those guys hit me in a very particular way. All three fascinate and disturb me in an all-encompassing, soul-shattering sort of way, usually at the same time. (The fascination and disturbing, not all three authors at the same time.)

On the one hand, each of them resonates with me at the deepest level. Each have the ability to turn out sentences and phrases and entire paragraph blocks that scan as if they were simply running dictation from my subconscious. Each seems to write from a place where I have lived some not insignificant portion of my adult life. (That place is probably most readily summed up as "indie rock scenesters from the '90s.) The overwhelming reaction when reading their novels and essays is identification-at-a-distance, and a sort of pride that someone is capturing this part of the world, this part of *my* world so elegantly, wittily and effectively. Reading either always provides a jolt of vicarious pride. "Yes! This is right. This is it. This is what we were about!"

At the same time, I am equally repulsed by the experience. If Nick Hornby, who lives in England and probably never set foot in any of the clubs or loved any of the bands I sweated and swore for, can effectively convey, with near perfect tone the fact of being there, and sweating and swearing for them nonetheless, that sort of explodes the idea that the experience itself was notably authentic. It suggests that the experience, absent the particulars - that my *life*, absent the particulars - rather than being spun up organically from cause and circumstance undeniably my own, was actually pretty close to "of a form." It suggests that my life probably has more in common with the "mass produced in China," "lowest common denominator" lives I so detest in say, Oasis fans, than I would ever want to acknowledge or believe. It drives a nagging suspicion deep into the gut, a little demon voice in the ear repeating over and over "the only difference between you and 'N Sync fans was that you tuned the radio dial into lower bandwidths; mere form, not function."

Which is to say, it tells me that I am no a beautiful and unique snowflake, and that makes me want to go destroy something beautiful.

All of which is a rambling attempt to frame my state of mind when reading the first few chapters of "Juliet, Naked." (In my first sitting I've made it through the first listen to Naked on the beach.) On the one hand, I already *heart* this novel, in the same way I just more or less man-crush on anything Hornby writes. I know these people already. I've known them for decades, even though I just learned their names last night. I know them, and I am them. These are my people, my tribe. Obscurantist musical obsessives. Occultist devotees to the healing and destructive powers of rock and roll. Socially awkward misfits whose strongest connections to other human beings often occur via chat rooms, BBS and "social networks." Yes. I know these people. Fuck me, how I know these people.

On the other hand, I want to pike Nick Hornby's head, burn his bones and salt the ground we sink him into while chanting the Latin equivalent of "get out of my head, you limey bastard; get out of my fucking head!"

With that said, the term "Croweologist" is fantastic. Even more so if you've ever spent three months attempting to explain to a sweet little strawberry blond with the most perfect Savannah-area lilt exactly why Superchunk's "Foolish" is the greatest break-up album ever recorded.

1 comment:

Ben B said...

Oliver Sacks, toward the end of The Mind's Eye, suggests that reading can allow us to enter into another person's experiences in a way so real that we can mistake those experiences for our own. I interpret the "get out of my head" moment as a taste of that remarkable gift, twisted into a little knot of "your unique experience and my unique experience are ... sort of the same?"

But Sam says, "If Nick Hornby ... can effectively convey, with near perfect tone the fact of being there,... that sort of explodes the idea that the experience itself was notably authentic." I'm not sure about your use of the word "authentic." Every love story may resonate with every lover, but that doesn't make love any less authentic, does it? The difference between you and 'N Sync fans is not a random selection of frequency modulation. The difference is, you see through their music in an instant, and they can't scratch the surface of yours. Your experience as an "obscurantist musical obsessive" probably has more in common with the East Dulwich branch of the Royal Society of Lepidopterists.