For the second week in a row I’m going far into the vault. This week’s song has been on the list of contenders for over a year (written 12/08/08, my dad’s birthday and the 28th anniversary of John Lennon’s death), but I’d pretty much decided against using it a long time ago. It was on the list, but it was in the “last resort” category along with a lot of others.
There was something about the song I liked, but there were several problems with it. The main one is that I suspect it sounds far too similar to a pretty well-known song by a pretty well-known musician. (I don’t want to say which one, just to see if anybody guesses. If you think I’ve infringed, send me an email or leave a comment. I’ll disclose the name of the song next week.)
Then last Thursday I was looking through the six notebooks where all the songs are scribbled, seeing if there was any case to be made for a K, U or X song, and when I saw this little piece of pseudo-Zen whimsy about man’s place in the universe or something, the title descended from the heavens and somehow completed the song.
In the year or so that the song had been hanging around, I’d never tried recording it, figuring it wouldn’t hold up. On Thursday I gave it a shot, and this is the second or third take. It sounds pretty good, I think, except for where I again tried to apply my cut-and-splice skills to get rid of a couple of gaffes in the performance (“Why not just re-record it? It’s only a three-minute song! And it doesn’t sound that hard to play!” Because I didn’t even think I was going to use this version until I listened to it later that night in the house, and then I thought it sounded pretty good and started messing with it, etc. But yeah, it would have been a lot faster just to re-record it.)
J.D. Salinger. Speaking of the sound of one hand clapping and literary vaults, J.D. Salinger died last week, and now there’s talk flaring up about what might be in his literary vault; there have been rumors for nearly forty years that though he stopped publishing, he never stopped writing.
I haven’t followed the story closely since his death, but somewhere I remember seeing a rumor floated that there may be 15 novels in his trunk. What his intentions were for those books, if the books exist, will be of interest to the literary world, and if there are instructions not to publish, his executors will be put in a pickle. We’ll have to watch the same sort of public hand-wringing we had to watch Vladimir Nabokov’s son Dimitri go through in deciding whether to publish the unfinished novel The Original of Laura, which Nabokov pere purportedly wanted destroyed. A lot of people weighed in publicly on whether the scholarly and literary interest in the unfinished novel should trump the author’s own stated desires.
I don’t know what my position is on that. I’m probably on the side of doing what the living want to do. If the dead want something done, they ought to do it when they’re alive. Vladimir could probably still have found the strength to strike a match. We can’t spend our lives going around wondering what the dead would have wanted. Good grief. Let them take out their own garbage.
But the Salinger story might be a bit different. If he really was writing for the past forty years and just stacking up those novels in a drawer with no intent ever to show them to anybody, with no reader ever imagined, publishing those books will be close to commission of pornography, and reading them will be an act of voyeurism. The Original of Laura, regardless of how good it is (I haven’t read it; the title sounds goofy), was at least a work that was undertaken with a reader in mind; the seeds of the artistic-social contract are there. If Salinger was writing alone “for himself” in his room, that’s a closed circuit. Whatever he produced will be of interest more for insight into Salinger’s psychology than for any literary merit. That’s an important distinction.
I’ve always been interested in those sorts of questions, but they’ve been a bit more on my mind lately as the end of this project approaches. I’d assumed that when it was done I’d just leave it there, but that’s not terribly palatable to me anymore. First, the point of the thing was doing it, not the having done it—i.e., it was a process-oriented project, not a results-oriented project. Second, the internet is a graveyard of abandoned blogs and websites, and I don’t really want to contribute to all the space-junk out there (you know, those 5-entry blogs that were started in January 2006 and haven’t been touched since). Third, everything is preserved on the internet now, nothing goes away—hell, this site probably will still be out there in some cached form even after I take it offline—and I just don’t like that. The Victorians were real bent out of shape about their perception of the burdens of the past weighing them down; well, they’d have a cow if they had to deal with the internet. It’s enough to turn anybody into a pre-Raphaelite. The dead ought to leave the building and take their old episodes of Flipper with them. Exceptions will be granted on a case-by-case basis, and think twice before applying if your last name isn’t Shakespeare. So I’ve decided I’ll take all this stuff down a couple of weeks after the last entry, say March 21, the first day of spring. The one thing I want to preserve is the remembrance of my father-in-law from Week 7, which I’ll either leave here or ask one or more of his colleagues in Scotland to find a place for on their blogs/sites.
Video. Those are some of Thomas’s best works, I think. Pirates, dinosaurs, space wars, he’s got it all covered.