Saturday, March 15, 2008

"I sort of can't believe it exists"

Tom Breihan's review of Snoop Dogg's new cd, Ego Trippin', appeared yesterday at Pitchfork. In his opening paragraph, Tom writes that Snoop has "somehow managed to evolve into a model of gangsta consistency, a sort of rap version of Tom Petty or Alan Jackson. He cranks out lazy, effortless hits at a scary clip, slightly tweaking his formula as the musical climate changes without ever leaving his comfort zone." I find this comparison both entertaining and spot on, but it's not the reason I'm linking to the review. It's this:
And then there's the utterly inexplicable country-fried "My Medicine" [which Tom later calls "batshit awesome" and I have to admit really makes me want to hear], which Snoop dedicates to "my main man Johnny Cash, a real American gangster" before intoning "Grand Ole Opry, here we come" and sing-rapping about weed over Everlast's respectable Tennessee Three pastiche. It's the closest thing we've ever had to a straight-up country song from one of the world's most recognizable rappers, and it's also a celebration of drugs dedicated to a beloved figure whose pill habit almost killed him more than once; I sort of can't believe it exists.
"I sort of can't believe it exists." Tom has used this phrase at least once before. In January, at his blog Status Ain't Hood, Tom posted about a couple of metal bands. That post ends with this, about the Swedish band Disfear:
And so Live the Storm brings just about everything I could possibly want from a metal album: pick-slides, dense and rumbling riffs, Ted Nugent caveman-solos, youth-crew call-and-response chants, epic pseudo-tribal drumming, vein-popping screams, incomprehensible lyrics that seem to be about staying true to yourself, song-lengths that generally stay in the three-minute range. Hooks. This thing absolutely slays, and I sort of can't believe it exists.
I like the phrase. I think we get so caught up in evaluation and assessment and moving on to the next big thing (or the next small thing) that we too rarely stop to consider how amazing artistic creation is. I commented to Tom's post that "the line between something awesome being created and not is that vanishingly thin." This is probably true to the point of banality, but at times I ponder it, in something like astonishment. When listening to a song, one that seems just so, and yet comprised, perhaps, of what might have otherwise seemed like incongruous elements, I sometimes become forcefully aware of how easily it could have been otherwise.

The same is true of writing, and the audacity of creation in general. Isn't there something astonishing about the mere existence of Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu? Can you believe that someone undertook such a massive project? Along with the great pleasure I'm experiencing reading that novel, this brute fact of its existence still manages to boggle my mind. . .

1 comment:

Lloyd Mintern said...

Is the question of "why fiction is" the same as the question of "why write it?" It seems to me (from my own limited experience, of course) that if one sets out to write "fiction", one is pretty much behind the eight-ball right away. Fiction may rather more profoundly be regarded as the interesting and instructive results of attempts to write at all. And I think that Mark's position is correctly reverential towards this. Too much criticism is a just a quarrel over the meaning of creativity--and it is sponsored by the false analytic of trying to get at how books are written. As if writers had an operating program . . .