Monday, August 06, 2007

You Don't Love Me Yet

Jonathan Lethem, 2006

Two things:

  1. OK, here's how it goes. Fiction itself is probably 10,000 years old, since the first story embellishment took place around a hunting campfire. Written verse is half that old, and the novel is only a couple of hundred years old and may or may not itself be dying out (pity the poor best-selling poets of yore). Music follows a somewhat parallel history, with written music being even younger than written fiction, the "group" being hundreds of years old, and the rock group only fifty or sixty years old (although you could make a case the "combo" is older yet.) There hasn't been a huge amount of time to digest the two forms and see what can be done with them in the salad dressing bottle of art (although each may be more fleeting than we suspect, so time's a wastin'). So if you ask me a question about whether you should dance about architecture, I say, go ahead, just because it appears to be an impossible task doesn't mean it can't be done. And thus we come to the question of writers trying to capture the rock group on paper, which without the benefit of audio would seem to require some extremely special gifts. (One notes parenthetically that the number of really good movies about rock groups (real or fictive), which have the benefit of being able to provide audiated audio instead of merely imagined audio, is an extremely small number.) The writer being afflicted as she or he is by attention to language, in such a work the lyrics of songs immediately begin to take an importance outsized with their actual importance in the viscera of a rock band. The factorialized relationships possible with a nice little four- or five-person group certainly make for a tantalizing challenge for the novelist, and one would hope that this multi-faceted aspect of the life of a group -- a hydra of a social construct well beyond the merely binary complexities (even if serially) of, say, a romance -- would eventually attract some kind of interesting narrative approach. There's basically one point of view and one hero in this particular book (Lucinda), and along with the aforementioned handicap concerning lyrics, I am going to have to say nice try, but no cigar. As I said earlier, dancing about architecture isn't necessarily a bad thing, anyway. I'm still waiting; maybe something I should take a stab at so I can fall on my own sword (having done so with an axe back in the days of my own apprenticeship.)
  2. I thought the character of the kangaroo was uncharacteristically underdeveloped.