Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Boy Genius?

A friend of mine emailed me yesterday, which proves a couple of interesting points. 1) I have a few friends, something you might find odd given my predilection for polemical ranting and in general embarrassing myself in grating, non-friendly ways. 2) I have an email address, which means you can contact me if you want, provided you have my email address, and goddammit, Magnuson, why aren't you publishing your email address on Mag’s Sentence? [We don’t have a reasonable answer, except for maybe we wish you’d leave comments?] So yeah, this friend of mine emailed me because I had emailed him and informed him that his taste in literature was veering dangerously into a low-brow, even-the-easy-stuff-seems-amazing state. I don’t know why I felt the need to correct his taste, probably because I like the guy and don’t want him to live his life under the wrong impression about what’s shit and what’s shinola, but I do know why he emailed me with the following comment, which I hereby paraphrase for clarity: “Fuck you. If I like it, I like it.” He also added something of this nature: “Go grade a paper or something.”

He’s probably right. Shit. I guess whatever turns one’s crank is whatever turns one’s crank. And if a book like Jonathon Livingston Seagull was once a bestseller that must mean it’s good, right? (My friend’s taste doesn’t run that far a-foul, as it were, but he’s well on the way). This reminds me of an argument I had with somebody about music years ago. I’ve always been into instrumental music, which by definition is not music a corporation has packaged for lowest-common-denominator public consumption in the darkest, most ignorant quadrants of the Midwest. I’ve always admired a certain type of virtuoso musician, too – Steve Morse, John McLaughlin, Eric Johnson, Frank Gambale, and so on – the type of musician who almost automatically creates revulsion in your hardcore Bob Dylan/Merle Haggard types because, as those types are always happy to point out, it’s about the song, Magnuson, not about the music. This argument – you can already guess – is as unresolvable as an argument about religion. Anyway, years ago, when Rick Springfield had his megahit “Jesse’s Girl” – a nice song, I guess, in 4/4 time, with lyrics that connect with any young person who’s ever felt a sense of jealousy and longing (I’m puking over here, in case you didn’t know) – I was deep in admiration of Frank Zappa’s three-disk record Joe’s Garage, on which there are no nice songs (at least in the what-sells-in-the-Midwest sense) and the time signatures are incredibly challenging and the music is hard to play and goddammit the album is a monumental and difficult masterpiece. So Rick Springfield had a huge hit, and somebody said to me, “Look, Magnuson. Rick Springfield is a way better musician than Frank Zappa. Who the fuck listens to Frank Zappa? Everybody is listening to Rick Springfield.”

I can’t relive that moment anymore. It’s too painful. Rick fucking Springfield. Goddam.

Oh well. I saw the future yesterday. And I have hope. I was walking my dog around the reservoir in Silver Lake late in the afternoon, and a women approached from the opposite direction pushing a baby stroller. The woman seemed nice, smiling in a nondescript way, but the baby, a boy, not eight months old, held a book in his hands and did not look nice at all. The book was right-side up and was not a children’s book (though I didn’t catch the title), and I swear to God this eight-month-old kid was reading this book, an adult book, with full comprehension and with the furrowed, thoughtful brow to go along with it. I wanted to stop his mother and say, “Is your boy a fucking a genius, or what?” But here in Silver Lake, we don’t do that sort of thing. We’re civilized. Still, I know that boy is the answer. I am going to sit tight for a few years and refrain from forming any opinions about anything, and when the boy’s ready to talk, I will be ready to listen.


  1. Rick fucking Springfield. Goddam. Says it all. Nice little thought provoker.

  2. Joe's Garage is still better than Working Class Dog by Rick Springfield.

  3. Actually, the interesting thing is Rick Springfield once played guitar in an honest to gosh progressive rock band with complicated time signatures, extended solos and odd meter drumming. I think he realized he could make a lot more money and chicks if he went to the schtick he gravitated to later.


Mag reserves the right to delete your comment. In other words, if you want to start up shit with Mag, send him an email.