Well alas, dear blog, no success in making out with Neko this weekend, but perhaps it’s for the best. This is largely due to the ridiculously cheap beer available in central Illinois and the very unmanly effect of it on my sexiness. Also, she doesn’t know me, and they have, like, security. But humiliations-in-blogs-with-teeny-page-views aside, let me move on to my engagement du semain.
So, if you haven’t heard, I went to see Neko Case this weekend. It was lovely. Now my most decidedly favorite song of all time in the whole spherical world is “Hold On, Hold On,” which perhaps makes me a terrible fan, since it’s pretty popular, but if you feel that way, hey, fuck you. Aside from displaying her incredible, defining characteristic, the four hundred guitars and the searing harmonies, this song really nails something quite close to most of us, methinks. The plaintive. An anthem of personal history as one of great betrayal. And, subsequently, a cyncism. “I leave the party at 3am, alone thank god.” Right? This is a song for anyone who has been wronged by another, or, for that matter, by the malevolent cosmos. One feels the fool, one feels one has lost one’s innocence, that the rules of life one learned in school no longer or never really did apply. It’s a mature sound, a sound that confesses a kind of knowing, and for that, ironically, there is comfort in it. This is abound in music. Think Bob Dylan. Think Elliot Smith. Damn, this should have been a music blog. And while I’m short on good poetry examples and betraying you, dear blog, let me suggest a quick romp through any of Louise Gluck’s early collections and I’m sure you’ll see what I’m talking about straight away. So yeah it’s strident, wistful, kind of pissy, but also kind of resigned and opened to a different kind of beauty. Depth of experience, life that has meaning and ferocity. So that’s what I mean–THERE’S COMFORT IN IT, a great amount in fact, and this is where I get into my little bit of trouble.
I love this song and most like it, and I have tried to write countless poems that follow similar lines. It has, for me, seemed a necessary indulgence; it has seemed like one of the most unifying verities–who hasn’t had a pity party driving back from something–we can connect with the plaintive because we have failed. A ha, but danger lurks. Entitlement, I think, is the other word. It is my right to sing this song, for I have been wronged. So leap from the realm of song and we get, I don’t know, this war in Iraq. Pretty much, every war. Perhaps I’m leaping to conclusions because I’ve just read “On His Deathbed, Holding Your Hand,” by DFW (that’s it, I promise), or because this is the eve of the launch of one of the the most violent video games to date (which is why, you’ll notice, I’m posting tonight. Gonna get my killstreak on tomorrow!), or because I feel guilty about my own grievances, that no one wants to publish my book yet, that I am not waking up tomorrow to have a room full of students listen to me, but regardless of any of these things I think the connection remains. Complaint is just a good wind’s push from justification, which rubs it’s sore back against retaliation and, well, continue the metaphor yourself. Maybe it’s more cogent if we localize it, make it a little smaller. Say you are on your fourth breakup in the past six years. You are driving home from the bar and like, feeling this song. You make a decision to leave. Maybe you make a decision to have words with your father. You make a decision to burn your car up out in the desert, hell, I don’t know–you make something happen. This is what art is best at, it compels you. The problem is, you aren’t exactly thinking clearly. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do any of these thing, but you certainly aren’t drawing a line down a piece of notebook paper and making any kind of list of pros and cons. You are being impulsive, reactive, and just go ahead and see above for the more troubling results of this.
So we can see the box of problems this opens up, but let me just take a quick step into the alley with you and whisper something dear: I think this is still necessary. Even if it means war, hatred, disorder, all the lovely kingdom in smoke and ash. Don Delillo has this great, repeated aphorism in White Noise, “all plots lead toward death,” which in a sense means that all plots toward something are inevitably toward a destruction, if you’ll forgive my condescendance. Right, the entire design of a plot is a change in world order, and you can’t sow new seed without overturning the earth, etc etc. This is why Christ died. This is why the Greek, Roman, Egyption or British empires didn’t happen at the same time. Okay but this is getting foolish–my point here is that a serious truth in life is that it turns on dissatisfaction, complaint, and the appropriate and subsequent actions thereafter. Now I am a privilaged individual to sit in my house on my computer with my job to make these kinds of comments. I know nothing of terror, true terror, and of the deep humanitarian desire, need, to put an end IN TOTAL to it. But I think the truism is worthwhile, and little songs like Neko’s, with its ambition much less audacious than mine in the past few sentences, harkens to this truism. By reviewing the past it is designing the future, it is enabling the future, and what I really mean to say is that, short of being totally in love with Neko, it is organic, perfectly natural, how it must be. Ah but this all too serious. Thanks for letting me indulge, dear blog. I can count on you.