Thursday, December 21, 2006

Absent Friends, part 2

George W.S. Trow, 1943-2006.

The message of many things in America is 'Like this or die.' It is a strain. Suddenly, the modes of death begin to be attractive.

Public Image Ltd., Public Image.
The Kinks, 20th Century Man.
Gang of Four, We Live As We Dream, Alone.
Black Flag, TV Party.
X-Ray Spex, Identity.
Bob Dylan, I'm Not There (1956).

It's a special crossover day--please check out Moistworks for Alex Abramovich's sister (brother? cousin?) post, which should be up soon.

George W.S. Trow died in Naples at the end of November. Trow had spent the last few years of his life on an endless pilgrimage of sorts, traveling up to Alaska, down to Texas and ultimately east, first to Newfoundland, then Europe. By some accounts, he was in hard shape, with most of his friends in the grave, and the world he had foreseen in 1980's Within the Context of No Context--the tabloid-minded, adolescent triumph that is mainstream American culture today--had come to pass almost exactly as he had predicted. (All quotes in italics are his.)

The most successful celebrities are products. Consider the real role in American life of Coca-Cola. Is any man as well loved as this soft drink is?

Trow's sensibility could be found in the old National Lampoon (his parody of an earnest, early '60s high school poem in the 1964 Yearbook is a small marvel) and the early years of Saturday Night Live, though he had advised his friend Michael O'Donoghue against working on the show. (In the early '70s, Trow and O'Donoghue had co-written the amazingly weird Savages, directed by James Ivory.)

"Adulthood" in the last generations has had very little to do with "adulthood" as that word would have been understood by adults in any previous generation. Rather, "adulthood" has been defined as "a position of control in the world of childhood."

Ambitious Americans, sensing this, have preferred to remain adolescents, year after year.

Time magazine's "Man of the Year" for 1943, the year of Trow's birth, was George Marshall; for 1980, the year of Within the Context.., it was Ronald Reagan. For the year of Trow's death, Time has chosen as their "Person of the Year" the most important person in the world:

Punk art is allied to what an extraordinary prisoner might do in his cell. Not ask for parole, for instance, or bone up on his case, but etch crazy feathery patterns into certain secret places.

Songs: PiL on Public Image; Kinks on Muswell Hillbillies; Go4 on A Brief History of the 20th Century; Black Flag on Damaged; X-Ray Spex on Germ Free Adolescents; Dylan still unreleased.

Essential GWST: Within the Context of No Context, My Pilgrim's Progress, The Harvard Black Rock Forest.

The history of the media has been our history; the history of our, by now, hopelessly conflicted personality...This is our Life, and it is supposed to be an attractive one.

And a sincere Merry Christmas to all of you.

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