Disaffected Prep

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

 

This post is about John Updike's clothing, and not much more

With all my extra free time recently I've taken a deep dive into American fiction - ripping through some novels and essays.  I've finished off books at a prodigious clip, and the whole recalibration of my mind feels eerily like the sensation of a tuning fork when hit.

There's been Philipp Meyer's American Rust - which is the story of a depressed Pittsburg area steel town and its inhabitants. Great American authors like Keruoac and Steinbeck are present in Meyer's work.  I've also tackled (and that seems the most apt word to use) the essays of David Foster Wallace and have swam a few laps in the shallow end of his book Infinite Jest (not quite sure if I'm ready to commit to the 1,000+ page project, so just grazing for now). 

As this recalibration is underway, I've been a lot more attuned to the news of American authors, living and deceased.  So naturally when this article appeared in the New York Times this week on John Updike's archive, I paid attention. 

Now, there are a few major American authors I just haven't read - like Pynchon, DeLillo, Roth, Mailer - and Updike is one of them as well. I know a fair amount of his history and loose outline of his books, but I won't add any value parroting it here. 

However, I can bring you some photos of an amazingly well dressed author (reminder: I did the same for Robert Lowell a few months back).  Which begs the question - why is the 'men's style blogosphere' so obsessed with pictures of writers like Ernest Hemingway, and shouldn't they pay a little more attention to John Updike instead?  (Of course, you hope you've introduced someone to one of the Rabbit novels in the process...)

Seriously, Updike in the '60s looks like he just showed up from a modern day Band of Outsiders photoshoot.  Incredible. 











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Sunday, June 13, 2010

 

H-O-V and the Pastoral

I've been plugging myself back into the pop culture currents, Matrix-style, after sixth months of hunkering down for a test that occurred on last Saturday.  It's a weird feeling, realizing free time is available for you to explore things not in pre-determined curriculum so you can just absorb yourself in the flow of inconsequential and entertaining news again. And now that I'm back up to speed on all things Ke$ha and not residual income, I'm a lot cooler to talk to.

So instead of listening to Mozart's Requiem for studying purposes (surprisingly effective), I've gorged myself on a healthy diet of top 40 to bump up my pop culture IQ. 

There's a lot of great stuff out there right now - but one standout song for me.  Jay-Z & Mr. Hudson's "Young Forever."



Yeah, the sample is killer.  Can't go wrong there.  But the thing I keep coming back to is Hov's lyrics. 

So we live a life like a video
When the sun is always out and you never get old
And the champagne’s always cold
And the music is always good
And the pretty girls just happen to stop by in the hood

My mind reeled the first time I heard it.  This is pastoral rap.  I love it.  Let me borrow a second from Christopher Marlowe's A Passionate Shepard to His Love (published 1599). 
 
Come live with me and be my Love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dale and field,
And all the craggy mountains yield.
There will we sit upon the rocks
And see the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

Pretty girls, nice weather and good tunes.  Am I talking Jay-Z, Christopher Marlowe, or both?  Back to Shawn Carter:

And they hop their pretty ass up on the hood of that pretty ass car
Without a wrinkle in today
Cuz there is no tomorrow
Just some picture perfect day
To last a whole lifetime
And it never ends
Cause all we have to do is hit rewind

Both are talking about idealized places where we don't grow old - and despite the chasm of 400 years these themes endure.  It's fascinating to see that this yearning can be connected across time and styles, and yet the core message stays the same.

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