[PREV - CRITICAL_TIME] [TOP]
January 11, 2009
"Lipstick Traces" Thus far, I've given it only
(1989) a little more attention than
the "first 13" treatment.
An overeducated idiot,
spewing dubious, unclear FIRST13 Anything more
assertions enthusiastically, would be hard
and flapping his arms to justify when
energetically, dropping there are more
impressive names and primary (and
quotations as he goes. less stupid)
sources out there.
The general pattern here is
that we're informed that it
wasn't very interesting when
someone else said it, but now
that Marcus is saying it, it's
He always tries to have
everything both ways... this
"Connections between the Sex is a "secret history", and
Pistols, dada, the so grandly yet "This book does not claim
named Situationist International, to be a history of any of the
and even forgotten heresies are movements it addresses".
not original with me. In the
early days of London punk, one He dismisses the historical
could hardly find an article on influence game as shallow,
the topic without the word 'dada' and yet check out *these*
in it: punk was 'like dada,' historical figures folks!
everybody said, though nobody said Just look at this parallel
why, let alone what that was here!
supposed to mean. References to
Malcolm McLaren's supposed
involvement with the spectral
'SI' were insider currency in the
British pop press, but that
currency didn't seem to buy
anything." -- p.19
And so here Marcus is going to show
us what it all buys, if anything?
Marcus is firmly in the punk-
began-in-England camp, Or perhaps: the brit punk
regarding everything before is the True Punk, the punk
the Sex Pistols as merely That Matters...
Not quite as silly, but
I find this position to still hard to defend.
be remarkably dumb -- it's
like declaring that rock n' FIRST_PUNKS Patti Smith
roll began with Elvis. is not
But then at least you can this book.
work up a logically
consistent taxonomy with Marcus rhapsodizes
this, and admittedly about the line
there's always going to be "I am an antichrist!",
room for debate about but regards the line
where the line is between "Jesus died for somebody's
precursor and originator sins, but not mine..."
(e.g. on which side do you as unworthy of mention.
put Iggy Pop?).
Ah, he published a
He drawls in a bored tone review of "Horses"
that much has been written in 1975:
about punks precursors, "but
all that is just arithmetic". "'Gloria' takes the
listener past its
Someone claiming to hopelessly tough-chick
write history -- even, Marcus remarks spoken intro into a
and perhaps especially, dismissively realm that shows Patti
"secret history" -- that the Ramones Smith at her best, all
really should have more did get started fury and desire."
respect for fact than with "Beat on
this. the Brat", but Do I smell some
there they sexism here? Marcus
What's particularly *stopped*. doesn't like "tough
crazy is that he chick" posturing,
*wants* to talk But it's not but Rotten's tough
about punks like the Sex guy act is just
predecessors-- his Pistols had great by him.
whole thesis is that long an
that the punk ethos arc.
has something to do
with dada and And anyway, what
situationism. about "Blank
Marcus talks about a flap about the
Sex Pistols saying "FUCK" on TV, and
mentions Elvis Costello's reaction,
listening with glee to outraged talk
on a commuter train platform. Then
Marcus leaps from there to this (here
I quote Marcus, and then Marcus'
quote of Mehring):
It was an old dream come true--as if the Sex
Pistols, or one of their new fans, or the
commuters beside him, of the television
itself, had happily rediscovered a formula Or perhaps, it's
contrived in 1919, in Berlin, by one Walter as if Greil Marcus
Mehring, and then tested the formula to the "rediscovered" it?
letter, word for word save for the name of
??? What is DADAyama ???
to be reached from railroad staions only by a double somersault
Hic salto motale /
Now or never /
the blood boil like it
enrages the crowd
in the melting pot /
(partly bullfight arenea--partly Red Front meeting--partly
1/2 gold plate--1/2 silver-plated iron
plus surplus value
--------------- = Everyday life
What does this Mehring quote have to
do with Costello's take on the Pistols
FUCK flap, except perhaps the bit about
making the crowd's blood boil?
There's the fact (or just a claim?) that
Dada enrages and the fact that punk
enrages, and that's supposed to be a
perfect match, "word for word"?
"Why is it that Mehring and Costello find
themselves both talking about train
platforms and blood pressure?"
Because "blood pressure" is a
cliche, and train platforms (What if it was conversations
are common experiences. in a pub? Whoa, what a
coincidence that would be!
"The two men are talking about
the same thing, looking for words
to make disruption precious; that
may not be an accident at all."
Or then again, it may.
If I'm understanding Marcus right,
he doesn't think it matters if
any of the punks had actually read
But if Sid had them tattooed on his
armpit, wouldn't that be QED?
What Marcus means is that he *knows*
that most of the punks haven't read But on the other hand,
this stuff, because almost no one you know, someone with
has -- an Art background like
McCluran isn't likely
to be a stranger to
He likes the idea of Dada.
spontaneous upwelling of the
same impulse arising a half
century apart -- then he can
just play with the texts,
without worrying about who
The idea that a history
Because actually, like, of influences doesn't
*tracing influences* is matter because every
too boring for the great generation re-writes
Marcus, and his bold new that history is pretty
conception of non- silly.
historical history (it's
all just a "social "The question of ancestry
construct", you know). in culture is spurious.
Every new manifestation
in culture rewrites the
past, changes old maudits
into new heroes, old
heroes into those who
should have never been
The history of the way
people re-write the
history is part of the
"As I tried to follow this Tracking this sort of
story--the characters thing may be hard
changing into each other's work, but that's
clothes until I gave up what *actual* history
trying to make them hold is about --
still--what appealed to me
were its gaps, and those "Insightful" ranting
moments when the story that and blathering may be
has lost its voice somehow more fun, but it only
recovers it ..."--p.22 goes so far without
some grounding in detail.
He is *really confused*
and he *doesn't know
what he's talking "Such a claim is not so
about*. Isn't that much an argument about the
fascinating? way the past makes the
present as it is a way of
suggesting that the
entanglement of now and
then is fundamentally a
Marcus early on lays out Mystery. Yes.
a distinction between I knew there was
nihilism and negation something
which may be logically mysterious here.
impecabble, but it's
difficult to see what
it illuminates. FLUENCE
It reminds me of the distinction
between atheist and agnostic --
important if you're a believer,
a quibble if you're not.
Does anyone ever go:
"let me see, shall I be
a nihilist or a negationist?"
Is it really important to decide if
Johnny Rotten was more one than the other?
Greil Marcus is a prime
example of a syndrome that
I've seen before...
He writes well, he's good at
crafting striking remarks,
but he tries to use this as
a substitute for thought.
Everything is declared by
fiat -- his enthusiasm
alone is supposed to carry
the day. There are writers
who do succeed in
producing works of
Another challenge, literature like
if any were needed, this that are
to the notion that worthwhile in spite
language == thought. of the lack of any
kind of rigorous
Griel Marcus is
not one of them.
[NEXT - INFLUENCE]