Friday, January 12, 2024

Let's listen to the pre-Beatles hit songs of 1964!

This image was posted on some facebook music group I'm a part of:

I'm not exactly sure where the rankings come from, I don't know why it goes to fourteen, and I have no idea what "big bonus" means, but it's an interesting look at the calm before the storm, just before the British Invasion changed everything.  Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to listen to them--see what our parents' generation were grooving out to.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2024

Christine Brooke-Rose, Textermination (1991)

So the idea of this here book is that a ton of literary characters gather for an annual conference in California, to try to, I guess, raise awareness of themselves amongst the public and get more readers.  Or something; it's not one hundred percent clear.  At any rate, the particular year, there's some fallout involving the whole Satanic Verses fatwa thing.  So there's that, and also some general academic parody, and then an ending that reminds me of Myron Brinig's Flutter of an Eyelid, a comparison that will be meaningful to exactly no one (but should be. Flutter of an Eyelid is awesome; read it!).

It does have to be said, Brooke-Rose includes an absolute metric fuck-ton of characters, some from remarkably obscure texts.  Of course, you don't need to actually know all these texts to do that--you can fake it with research, as she even notes at one point.  Still, it's undeniably impressive, especially in a pre (or proto)-internet era.  Also--as if this all weren't meta enough--we get an appearance by the protagonist of Amalgamemnon by one Christine Brooke-Rose, who is also posited as the author of Textermination.  So that's all right.

Well, within limits.  I have to admit, as I think about it I realize that, while not without its merits, it's definitely the weakest Brooke-Rose novel I've read to date.  If often does feel like it's just turning into a game of spot-the-reference, which is kind of fun, but also sort of limited.  Also, I strongly object to her characterization of Oedipa Maas as a kind of humorless-feminist type, and also for sticking her with the single worst line of dialogue I've ever read in a Brooke-Rose novel, or possibly any novel: "You're not even bright enough to be aware of Tristero."  Yes, okay, you've read The Crying of Lot 49, but what a horrendously awkward way to show it.  And not character-based, either: Oedipa doesn't know about Tristero for a long time, and then isn't sure if it's a real thing.  Proper postmodern indeterminacy.  There's no way she'd get all obnoxious about her secret knowledge. Bah.

Still, there's another question to be raised--and maybe it's even a relevant question, what with the recent public-domaining of [one version of] Mickey Mouse that everyone's talking about: how can it possibly have been legal to publish it?  Because, as the above mentions of Rushdie and Pynchon may make clear, it extremely does not limit itself to public domain characters.  There are plenty of those, sure, but it uses a comparable number from Brooke-Rose's own contemporaries.  Are you just allowed to do that?  Does it count as some sort of fair-use?  I mean, sure, it would be hard to argue that any given character here is being used as a selling point, but is that really the litmus test?  Or is it just the case that the book has such a small audience that all the authors whose characters were coopted either couldn't be bothered to take legal action of didn't even notice?  Hard to say, but it's certainly interesting to think about.