Friday, April 20, 2007

Monster Eyes

A couple nights ago, my Tootie and I attended the last of the Seattle Arts and Lecture series for 2007, Jonathan Lethem talking about 'insteadness', which is the concept of talking about something instead of what's really going on. I interpreted this as an extension of his essay called "The Beards" (from The Disappointment Artist,) which talked about his writing about anything but the elephant in the room (the loss of his mother at a young age.) Lethem confessed as much last night.

Last night? Lethem provided the keynote address at the 2007 Pop Conference, at EMP here in Seattle. Beforehand, I had a chance to ask him about "The Beards" and it's relationship to 'insteadness,' and he admitted that's an extension of that thought. Where "The Beards" is more a personal 'code ring' to reading the earlier works of Lethem, 'insteadnes' is meant to apply to mass media and our propensity to want to be diverted from looking directly at 'the blood.' Instead we get celebrity gossip, who's baby's daddy, Don Imus, Simon Cowell's rolling of the eyes, and now Alec Baldwin's phone message to his daughter.

Anyway, back to last night, Lethem spoke of the inherent charlatanry of Rock, and our need and want to be thrilled by the poses that our favorite artists put forth. Lethem likened his writing to that, saying he likes to jump into things he's certainly no authority on, because what comes forth from walking that tightrope is far more interesting then the comfy nest of what you know, and thus he's sort of 'faking' it. To that point, his latest novel, You Don't Love Me Yet is set in Los Angeles and is about an indie rock band, two things that Lethem felt interested in, but not too knowledgable in. After I told him about my Novel Sndtrck project I did on his book, and the double-cd's I made for my bookclubbers (he also did one,) he handed me a mix cd he made for You Don't Love Me Yet, called "Monster Eyes," (download via The Village Voice) which is the title of the one semi-hit that the fictional band in his book acheived.

Playlist: Monster Eyes (Novel Sndtrck from Lethem's You Don't Love Me Yet

This Novel Sndtrck features tracks from The Vulgar Boatmen (where the book title comes from,) Yo La Tengo, Spoon, Wire and Camper Van Beethoven, so it's another good one.

After the talk, we all went out for dinner down the street, and I found myself across the table from this man I admire very much, sharing similar stories about vivid memories of Pete Townshend's "Let My Love Open the Door." I maintained composure and didn't fall into 'fan boy' mode, but I think he could tell I was at least somewhat in awe of him (I am.)

The blog is a beard (Lethem's The Disappointment Artist)
Novel Sndtrck: Lethem's Fortress of Solitude

tags: , , , , , ,


drake leLane said...

Monster Eyes (Lethem's You Don't Love Me Yet

1. Rock-n-Roll Friend - Robert Forster
2. "Oh! Those Sweet Bananas" - Hackamore Brick*
3. "I Am The Fly" - Wire*
4. "Weeded Out" - The Roches*
5. "This Song" - Ron Sexsmith
6. "Still In Love With You" - Danielle Howle
7. "You Don't Love Me Yet" - Vulgar Boatmen
8. "Aspartame" - Philip Price*
9. "Wild And Blue" - The Mekons*
10. "Did I Tell You" - Yo La Tengo
11. "The Devil Glitch (Short Version)" - Chris Butler
12. "What Makes You Think You're The One" - Camper Van Beethoven
13. "Anything You Want" - Spoon
14. "Golly Gee" - K. McCarty
15. "You Don't Love Me Yet" - Soundtrack from a film by Johanna Billing (Roky Erickson)*
16. "Right Track Now" - Dump*

*Not available in Rhapsody at this time

bumpershine said...

I talked to him after one of his readings at the New Yorker Festival a few years ago. He seems like a genuinely nice guy. Little did I know that one my good friends more or less grew up with him here. He was a guest on Kurt Andersen's Studio 360 a few weeks ago.

drake leLane said...

yeah... he's so at ease. It's criminal of me not to mention that writers Greil Marcus, Robert Christgau, Sasha Frere Jones and Jeff Chang were also there, but Lethem comes off as the most approachable. Perhaps because he was there also as a fan of the aforementioned music scribes.