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Friday, December 19, 2008

Book Report

An album I didn't really think existed is Having Fun with Elvis On Stage (1974). I found it today, though. I had thought that perhaps Lester Bangs had made this up, as I had never actually encountered the damn thing in my encyclopedic perusal of used vinyl emporia.

Here's Lester: "...only a true pervert could put out something like Having Fun with Elvis On Stage, that album released three or so years back which consisted entirely of between-song patter so redundant it would make both Willy Burroughs and Gert Stein blush."

Now, I had conflated it in my mind with the footage I've seen of late-stage Elvis; where he tries to go into that talk-sing bridge that lives in so many of his songs, but he's so fucked up on pills, he just can't do it. He goes, "bu-bu-blubba-bluh-bluh", which causes the audience to laugh, thinking that Elvis is making a joke. Elvis hears the laughter, and -being an entertainer- decides to go with it. He spends the rest of the song just going, "bluh bluh bluhbba-ba bluh", and they just can't get enough.
We'll see what this actually is. I suspect that I will love this piece of lost Americana, which describes itself on its cover as "A Talking Album Only", unconditionally.

Was reading: The Wicked Wine of Democracy, by Joseph S. Miller. Good insight by an old political hack who is wise enough to call himself that. While more or less serving as a lobbyist for the steelworker's union back in the late '50's, he got called upon by LBJ hisself to go get more Democrats elected.
Through methods both trite and illegal (to say nothing of entirely aboveboard by the standards of the day), he assisted a host of Northwest political heroes of mine, including one that my father was a page for in the Senate, to office.

Many others profited from this guy's help, including the apparently unlikable William Proxmire.

Fun thing? Joe Miller is more than willing to admit that there was nothing likable about said candidate, and that his colleagues -such as they were- hated the guy, and that there wasn't even anything all that noble about his motives for seeking office. He just wanted power, or something. And his colleagues -such as they were- just wanted to get a Democrat elected.

After helping the Kennedy family make their son President in 1960 (with the requisite scene that appears in everyone's political memoir of this time: how Bobby Kennedy came to hate me for the rest of his life), he settles into a fatter life of just being a lobbyist, which it seems he did happily and only somewhat guiltily.
Credit goes to old Joe Miller for coming to the end of his book neither renouncing hard liquor (which I was waiting for after he called whiskey "that filthy brown stuff" in an earlier chapter) nor suggesting any sort of fix for the political game as it is currently played.

Wisely, he notes that it's been this way for a long time. Rome, probably, if not longer. Also wisely, he does not act like it's wonderful just because it got him rich. He fully admits that lobbying and the corrupting influence of money in general has utterly ruined any sort of activist spirit in government, and admits he has no serious ideas for how to change this.
Neither did John McCain and Russ Feingold, he can't help but note.

Also read: A Sense of Reality by Graham Greene. I have to have a bit of silence in my head to read Mr. Greene, and lately it has been back. Otherwise, it's easy to overlook what he was up to. And what was that?
Well, writing something more psychedelic than anyone like Hunter Thompson could pull off (just to throw a name in there), because it takes place in the confines of every day life, everyday life as experienced by an Englishman, I might note. Where you are lulled into it by a rote recitation of where you went to school, what you do for a living, where your family is from, et cetera and,

Oh- did I tell you that one time I found a world under a tree in the garden, and wrote a story about it when I was a child which was no good since I was a child and insisted on embellishing it with heroic derring-do that never happened, and although I know it didn't happen as such, I will rewrite the story now -better, and as if the dream I suspect it really was did happen, and what detail I would include if so.
That is the plot, more or less, of 'Under The Garden'. The narrarator is dying of lung cancer, too, in one of those sighing, too-polite-by-half disappointed ways.

And in 'A Visit to Morin' he does it again. He sets you up with what, in other English authors' hands, would be deadly boring: I am employed by a firm that imports fine wines. I often find humourous ways of over-stating the qualities of said wines, which is easy to do because wine snobs are pretentious, above all else. Anyway, I also was raised Catholic, and...
Right about the time you're starting to get really sick of this, he goes and finds a childhood favorite author, who is observing Midnight Mass, despite supposedly having turned his back on the church.

They go back to his place, get drunk, and have one of the greatest conversations about theology and heresy (and especially apostasy) I've ever read.

The other two stories ain't bad, either.

Reading: George S. Kaufman, an intimate portrait by Howard Teischmann.

Mr. Kaufman, playwright, director, producer, actor, lover, co-wrote You Can't Take It With You, which I think was the first play I ever saw that I truly found funny. It's nice that once upon a time one could be famous for being exceptionally skilled at comebacks and one-liners. Of course, you can do that now too, but the jokes have gotten shittier.

As some would say that the death and failure of the old media outlets -and indeed the old practice of writing letters- goes, well, some would say that this is finally the populist reaction to centuries of The Elite holding sway over the world of words.
Of course, maybe just maybe there's people in this world who just do better in their use of words, and just because everybody can write doesn't mean that they should. Hell, all you need to do is look at the fucking Blogosphere to note that this is true. Most of the people who "publish" here not only can't string together the basics of a coherent sentence, but don't bother to use the spell-checking software that god gave them.

Excuse me. Anyway, Howard Teischmann does a good job of not falling into that trap that most biographers do: he goes right ahead and notes what a pain in the ass his subject was. For one thing, they collaborated on a play so he knows of what he speaks, but also he has the courage to more or less say being really clever by no means makes you a pleasant person to be around.
Or there's that other thing that biographers do that he doesn't; respond to a criticism of their subject by pointing out how since they were a high school star quarterback, they couldn't possibly be guilty of those corruption charges levelled at them thirty years later. I have seen this again and again.

He repeatedly uses some form of the sentence, "In those days, puns were considered the height of humor." Several times he says this, as if to underscore...Well anyway Howard, idiots still do. Hell, you should read The Oregonian.

Keep putting down and coming back to Stephen Pinker's The Blank Slate, subtitled The Modern Denial of Human Nature. Lovely stuff about how to this day people more or less take sides on the nature/nurture question, when we've known for quite some time that it's both.

Haven't listened to the Elvis yet. It has been snowing and freezing-raining here for long enough that we have somewhat had to concentrate on buying whatever we might need in order to make it through being snowed in.
But Elvis, I'm pretty sure, never wrote a book (unlike so many other rock stars), so this sort of thing is his text, unlucky bastard.

Bob Dylan, on the other hand, at least leaves us Tarantula, which wasn't a good book at all but has the nice line where a school teacher asks the class, "Who is the president?", and a little boy raises his hand and says, "Ernest Tubb."



Blogger Salty Miss Jill said...

Ernest Tubb as president, indeed.
I can think of worse people.
You do know there is an Ernest Tubb theme park?
Happy Merry to you and Aunty!

2:10 PM  
Blogger rich bachelor said...

No, I didn't know that. Appropriate, though.

Happy ho-ho to you and the mister.

9:39 AM  

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