Saturday, May 30, 2009

An extra set of ear-plugs

Across from the the Javits Center with its shiny black skin, that impenetrable surface masking the messiness within, I stand on the bike path running along the West Side Highway waiting for a break in the traffic. Overhead seagulls whirl against a stretch of blue-white sky, seemingly undisturbed by the tourist choppers taking off and landing every few minutes. The Ride of the Valkyries. Our age is no more barbarous than any other, just louder.

At a BEA a few years ago in Washington, DC, a lovely author of some reputation leaned over to me at dinner and confessed, "I haven't read a novel in years that comes close to the narrative complexity and emotional wallop of
The Sopranos." Earlier this week, I saw a dear friend whose passion for poetry is second to none, and she said, "Have you seen The Lives of Others? It's as good as, or better than, almost any novel I've read recently." Long live the novel.

Yesterday was a good day at Book Expo -- clever, funny Lauren Cerand turned me on to Japanther during her Cannon Tales presentation. I thought to myself, every generation's got the same revolution, it's just the effin soundtrack that changes. And these guys have every right to be pissed -- it's a bitch having to come up with workarounds all the time cause the Big Sclerotic Publishers won't let anybody else touch their Machines. The whole Cannon Tales thing was a highlight, the cats bristlin with nervous energy, sippin beer and wine, hot to trot, pullin it off. I felt a creep of middle finger blues in there, but everyone was havin too much fun for it to take hold. Quist used to say, "The kids may be confused, but the mojo is theirs." I still think Powerpoint is awful, though.

Downstairs in the panel discussions, some people were tryin to talk sense amid the din but it was tough goin. It's mostly a language issue -- the techno savants and the Free Market Boys don't speak English. True, their mouths form English words, but those words aren't arranged in any kind of coherin order. They may be formulatin 'thoughts' in there somehow, but you'd need an effin magnifyin glass to find 'em. After a while, it all runs together, meaningless neologisms, clunky analogies, pretentious abstractions, silly acronyms, and DOA clich├ęs. I let the sound of their voices wash over me -- just like sittin in a church where everyone is gabblin in tongues. Harmless.

Chris Morrow spoke clearly and sensibly about his Print-on-Demand experiment, a panel of non-industry readers talked plainly about what they like to read. Two self-published authors got up and tried to sell their self-help snake oil in that session, but the panel wouldn't allow it. A bright shining moment. Quist always told me, "You wanna learn something, you gotta leave your own agenda at the door, unclog your ears, shut your yap, and pay attention."

The light turns and I walk across to the corner of 34th Street. The traffic begins to move again behind me. Let it go, the noise and stink of it. The Javits Center looms before me in its sleek ugliness. Here I am again. Hey, poot, you comin' with me?

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