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Posts tagged "guilty pleasures"

Apr 19, 2014
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Feb 12, 2014
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Adam Sternbergh, Shovel Ready

This was a lot of fun. Call it a terse, sci-fi hard-boiled noir: Ex-garbageman turned hit man in a post dirtybomb NYC protects a damsel-in-distress. Nice doses of humor, too.

Books like this are like a big fat reset button for my reading habits: when I’m stuck on boring books, they get me going again, turning pages.

I’ve followed Sternbergh’s writing for a few years, and it’s cool to read this after reading all his essays circling around the idea of “trash” and genre.

Last week, he published this essay on “guilty pleasures,” lamenting the point at which he stopped reading books for pleasure, and started reading books because he should. (Today I posted my own excerpt from my new book: “No More Guilty Pleasures.”) He writes: “This year, I’m making a simple resolution… I’m going to banish the word “should” from my cultural vocabulary.” (This is an attitude I’d first run into from Jonathan Lethem and then fully embraced when I read Alan Jacobs: “Read at whim! Read what gives you delight—at least most of the time—and do so without shame.”)

Here’s Sternberg debating A.O. Scott’s notion of “strained pulp”:


  This observation about “strained pulp” really struck me — in part because so much of what I love falls precisely in this category: knowing, sophisticated attempts to replicate pleasures that were once widely disdained. I like Soderbergh’s genre films like “Haywire” and “The Limey”; I like Michael Chabon’s self-consciously pulpy novel, “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union”; heck, I liked “Drive.”


What’s interesting is that it seems to have taken him a while to get around to “write what you like”:


  I was probably doing what I was habitually and temperamentally inclined to do in the presence of book editors, which was mumble some half-baked ideas for nonfiction books that I thought might be commercially appealing, but which, upon further reflection, I’d realize I didn’t even want to read, let alone write. You recognized this, and forcefully reiterated the question: No, Adam—what do you want to write? At which point I think I mumbled, even more sheepishly, something like: “Well, I’d like to write fiction.”


Just as there’s that leap of getting over what you feel like you should be reading and reading what you want to be reading, there’s that leap of getting over what you feel like you should be writing, and what you want to be writing. All fiction is fan fiction. Michael Chabon in Maps and Legends:


  All literature, highbrow or low, from the Aeneid onward, is fan fiction….Through parody and pastiche, allusion and homage, retelling and reimagining the stories that were told before us and that we have come of age loving—amateurs—we proceed, seeking out the blank places in the map that our favorite writers, in their greatness and negligence, have left for us, hoping to pass on to our own readers—should we be lucky enough to find any—some of the pleasure that we ourselves have taken in the stuff that we love: to get in on the game. All novels are sequels; influence is bliss.


Anyways, thumbs up.

Filed under: my reading year 2014

Adam Sternbergh, Shovel Ready

This was a lot of fun. Call it a terse, sci-fi hard-boiled noir: Ex-garbageman turned hit man in a post dirtybomb NYC protects a damsel-in-distress. Nice doses of humor, too.

Books like this are like a big fat reset button for my reading habits: when I’m stuck on boring books, they get me going again, turning pages.

I’ve followed Sternbergh’s writing for a few years, and it’s cool to read this after reading all his essays circling around the idea of “trash” and genre.

Last week, he published this essay on “guilty pleasures,” lamenting the point at which he stopped reading books for pleasure, and started reading books because he should. (Today I posted my own excerpt from my new book: “No More Guilty Pleasures.”) He writes: “This year, I’m making a simple resolution… I’m going to banish the word “should” from my cultural vocabulary.” (This is an attitude I’d first run into from Jonathan Lethem and then fully embraced when I read Alan Jacobs: “Read at whim! Read what gives you delight—at least most of the time—and do so without shame.”)

Here’s Sternberg debating A.O. Scott’s notion of “strained pulp”:

This observation about “strained pulp” really struck me — in part because so much of what I love falls precisely in this category: knowing, sophisticated attempts to replicate pleasures that were once widely disdained. I like Soderbergh’s genre films like “Haywire” and “The Limey”; I like Michael Chabon’s self-consciously pulpy novel, “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union”; heck, I liked “Drive.”

What’s interesting is that it seems to have taken him a while to get around to “write what you like”:

I was probably doing what I was habitually and temperamentally inclined to do in the presence of book editors, which was mumble some half-baked ideas for nonfiction books that I thought might be commercially appealing, but which, upon further reflection, I’d realize I didn’t even want to read, let alone write. You recognized this, and forcefully reiterated the question: No, Adam—what do you want to write? At which point I think I mumbled, even more sheepishly, something like: “Well, I’d like to write fiction.”

Just as there’s that leap of getting over what you feel like you should be reading and reading what you want to be reading, there’s that leap of getting over what you feel like you should be writing, and what you want to be writing. All fiction is fan fiction. Michael Chabon in Maps and Legends:

All literature, highbrow or low, from the Aeneid onward, is fan fiction….Through parody and pastiche, allusion and homage, retelling and reimagining the stories that were told before us and that we have come of age loving—amateurs—we proceed, seeking out the blank places in the map that our favorite writers, in their greatness and negligence, have left for us, hoping to pass on to our own readers—should we be lucky enough to find any—some of the pleasure that we ourselves have taken in the stuff that we love: to get in on the game. All novels are sequels; influence is bliss.

Anyways, thumbs up.

Filed under: my reading year 2014

Feb 12, 2013
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Jan 26, 2013
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I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you fucking like something, like it. That’s what’s wrong with our generation: that residual punk rock guilt, like, “You’re not supposed to like that. That’s not fucking cool.” Don’t fucking think it’s not cool to like Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” It is cool to like Britney Spears’ “Toxic”! Why the fuck not? Fuck you! That’s who I am, goddamn it! That whole guilty pleasure thing is full of fucking shit.

Jan 20, 2012
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I really liked Barker and Taylor’s Faking It: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music. The thesis of the book (which I happen to be very sympathetic to) is that the modern obsession with “keeping it real” has hurt both the creative work and careers of musicians, and has kept music fans from enjoying perfectly good music:


  Is it possible to put authenticity to one side for a while? To refuse to accept that “authentic” is always morally better than “inauthentic”? If you get up, turn on the radio, and listen to some music you haven’t liked before because it struck you as “fake,” how do you feel now? Liberated? Bored? Scared? Maybe even entertained? Is it possible to just listen and react to it without worrying about why you do so? And if you are enjoying music that you would normally regard as fake, do you feel ashamed?
  
  When we’re young, a large part of our original motivation in discovering music comes from trying to find out about our identity—perhaps to fit in, or, in contrast, to differentiate ourselves from the rest. The musical morality we adopt at an early age often becomes enshrined, making it hard to change our views later on. From this comes the notion of “guilty pleasures”—any music that we regard as inauthentic but still enjoy becomes a shameful secret, rather than something we can honestly admit to liking.1


The book runs just a little long and the book gets just a tad preachy at the end, but its mostly very thought-provoking: I especially liked the chapters on Kurt Cobain, Elvis Presley, and Neil Young. (The authors kept a blog a few years ago when the book came out that’s fun to browse through.)

Lionel Trilling’s Sincerity and Authenticity on the other hand…well, I really liked this Oscar Wilde quote in it:


  Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.


Filed under: authenticity



cf. Jonathan Lethem’s teenage “nerdish fever for authenticity.” and St. Vincent’s rejection of “guilty pleasures” ↩

I really liked Barker and Taylor’s Faking It: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music. The thesis of the book (which I happen to be very sympathetic to) is that the modern obsession with “keeping it real” has hurt both the creative work and careers of musicians, and has kept music fans from enjoying perfectly good music:

Is it possible to put authenticity to one side for a while? To refuse to accept that “authentic” is always morally better than “inauthentic”? If you get up, turn on the radio, and listen to some music you haven’t liked before because it struck you as “fake,” how do you feel now? Liberated? Bored? Scared? Maybe even entertained? Is it possible to just listen and react to it without worrying about why you do so? And if you are enjoying music that you would normally regard as fake, do you feel ashamed?

When we’re young, a large part of our original motivation in discovering music comes from trying to find out about our identity—perhaps to fit in, or, in contrast, to differentiate ourselves from the rest. The musical morality we adopt at an early age often becomes enshrined, making it hard to change our views later on. From this comes the notion of “guilty pleasures”—any music that we regard as inauthentic but still enjoy becomes a shameful secret, rather than something we can honestly admit to liking.1

The book runs just a little long and the book gets just a tad preachy at the end, but its mostly very thought-provoking: I especially liked the chapters on Kurt Cobain, Elvis Presley, and Neil Young. (The authors kept a blog a few years ago when the book came out that’s fun to browse through.)

Lionel Trilling’s Sincerity and Authenticity on the other hand…well, I really liked this Oscar Wilde quote in it:

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.

Filed under: authenticity


  1. cf. Jonathan Lethem’s teenage “nerdish fever for authenticity.” and St. Vincent’s rejection of “guilty pleasures” 

(via austinkleon)

Oct 31, 2011
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I try not to have guilty with my pleasure. Pleasure’s pretty good without it. Everything is an influence. I quoted lines from Marilyn Monroe on the new album, and from The New Yorker. I was listening to Janet Jackson as much as Arthur Russell. Anywhere and everywhere—it’s all fodder.
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