From about 8:30 to 9:30 in the morning and about 10:30-12:00 at night weekdays and from early afternoon to early evening on Sundays, I read exclusively print material. I’m trying to hit a goal of about 150-200 pages a day on days I don’t write.
I’m not really reading anything particularly heavy. No Hegel or Hofstader. Yet. Just trying to get to a state where I read quickly but reflectively from a wide variety of materials.
I just finished the last couple volumes of Gardner Dozois “Year’s Best Science Fiction” anthologies. In general, I enjoy the majority of what he selects, as his tastes walk the fine line between hard and soft without going too much either way. I own about half the anthologies and have read back to the original 1984 one. It’s rather interesting as more and more it seems we are living in the future, narratives of the future are less in demand (outside crappy Hollywood blockbusters).
Right now I’ve been plowing through piles of magazines Asimov’s, 2600, The Believer, Pipes and Tobaccos. There would be more if I had more money, but I’m starting to feel that I need to focus on books more. Still, DIY and SEED would make good additions to the list.
Right now, I’d like to focus on one of them. The Believer.
I’ve got something of a love-hate relationship with the magazine (as opposed to the all-hate relation I have with n+1, it’s ‘rival’ of sorts). I love its inquiries into the incredible minutia of culture. Just the recent issue with its article on the long forgotten musical notation for all sounds made by William Gardiner and it’s inquiry into the otherworldly aesthetics of the Lawrence Welk Show is worth the price alone.
Then there’s the fairly interesting articles on how writing about music is like dancing about architecture complete with various literary examples.
Then there’s the shit that makes me want to throw the damn thing against the wall. A godawful paean to the lyrics of some Indie rock sensitive artist that reads like a Pitchfork review sans the snark and with triple the unearned importance. The almost painful centerpiece article about Beth Ditto, who apparently is a stereotype of all the annoying aspects of the painfully cool, from the “famous for being famous” done hipster style, to the definition of “punk” which includes acting like an ADHD child while amongst the general public, mouthing the political and sexual platitudes that is Puritanism wearing Burroughs’ dirty raincoat as a disguise, to just general pointless self-indulgence and excess that doesn’t even try to be tasteful, witty, or even self-aware.
If a hot chick with barely any musical talent strips down during a show and acts like a vapid fashion show hopping party girl offstage, she’s a trashy Pussycat Doll. If a fat dyke does the same damn thing, she’s the darling of the hipster media.
Often even with the good articles, like last year’s inquiry into Bill Fox has that certain myth-building, “my-aren’t-we-profound” sorta feel to it that grates. It’s no wonder, Bill Fox reputedly said he’d like to punch the writer in the face.
Add to that the PC lip-service that ruins perfectly good articles like the Karl May one, which while factually fascinating, did the great disservice of thematically linking the depictions of the Wild West written for Germans that were actually pretty progressive for its times (with old Shatterfist helping bring the Indians into Christianity and restoring peace on the frontier) to the genocidal visions of May’s most infamous fanboy, a certain Adolf Hitler.
Frankly I’m torn. Where else can I get articles about the obscurities, the artists and writers that fall through the cracks of history, the odd takes on pop cultural things without the whole social and political subtext I find obnoxious?
And no, it’s not the leftward slant of it either. I find traditionalist monologues that refuse to accept anything culturally or aesthetically avant-garde pretty grating as well. It’s the whole interpreting art through a lens of social peer group enforced norms rather than on its own merits.