What We Know
by Will Hubbard
It’s happening all around me. Creedence songs sucked of all life. Reading at 15 pages per hour rather than the normal, glacial 25. Elapsing time, stuffed with fecund deadness, between the needed and gotten. I think of the word “photograph” occupying a segment of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Saving was not an option – what came in, went out. Now, suddenly and without even the absurdist explanation of a parent or employer, “just” is now “not nearly” enough. Compensation, if still, retains its hopeful portent; prices for the meager necessities are down. Can a digital stream evaporate? And if so, I must keep getting everything for free.
The one known as Chan Marshall was in our thoughts as we crossed a bridge. Changing your name does not make you unbeautiful, luckily. Like great novelists who disappear but still leave traces of having existed and probably, therefore, still exist. They breathe the same air as those who believe them incapable of another novel, thinking them old, or at least agéd, perhaps in Italy or the Sonora Desert.
And yet Ms. Marshall proves herself perfectly able; she writes of what she knows, which is song. In times of little the people need the languorous songs of redemption. The author needs something to deify, to say “I am not a Senator’s son though you may believe me to be fortunate.” The appropriate singer will be a tenor, a woman singing a man’s song. The appropriate occasion will be a battle that nobody cares much about or even notices.
Atrocities can be valued in either real or cultural currency. The critic awakens to the sound of fireworks on the horizon, but assumes personal melancholy rather than answering its call to action. Maybe a song plays while she’s in the shower thinking “Don’t drink the water. Don’t drink the water. ” The music is imperceptible because it has no appropriate occasion.
Like currency, the music of Aretha Franklin was not our music. We sought to own it, to bring it back to the homeland and give it the Pulitzer for excellence in contemporary American Iterature. Until now, none of this involved recording, with minimal instrumentation and inferior vocals, songs Aretha made manna. There are books that demand plagiarizing and those that preclude it. No one should re-record a song after Aretha has. Such things are not for humans to hold.
Conversely, a truly big book puts everyone to the test. Do you have responsibility to the things of your world, living or dead? We can “steal time” for the little books, the books of anguish, hope, dread, and phenomenal poverty. But to read a truly big book we must “give time”, like blood, an activity of the leisured, listless, or European.
Everything recedes except the pace of life; dollars are speed bumps, asterisks. One knows the writing at hand will be part, infinitely small, of the future of every wealthy child. Rare beauty of lips, a nose like both its father and father, a cultivated singing voice, slow on the pitch. Listening to her old Cat Power records, he asks his au-pair from Tucson: “What is a roberto bolano?”
She believes it to be a flavor of ice-cream, and she is correct. It is made of tuberculosis, plantains, and gaffer’s tape. The lesson of the day is that if one reads quietly from the time the sun rises until the time the sun is forgotten there will be sweets. She cracks her neck and continues writing her rich song of the red desert.
It is the year 2008. There are still seasons, OK. This is what we do, really? We slow down Creedence songs?
Will Hubbard is the contributing editor to This Recording. He lives in Brooklyn.
“I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)” – Cat Power (mp3)
“It Ain’t Fair” – Cat Power (mp3)
PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING
Everyone says they know you.
Pink and waiting.
The sycophants masquerade.