It is ultra-quaint and ultra-post-modern simultaneously.
This is a really fantastic book.
Did I mention it sounds good? I mean, I sound good when I read the pages out loud, and that’s saying a lot. The songs are user-friendly, in easy musical keys, consciously written for people like me. Thank you, Beck!
“Have you heard Beck’s new album? After about 20 hours with it I’ve still only heard seven songs out of 20.
That’s because I’m a mediocre musician, with poor sight-reading skills and no piano handy, and Song Reader, if you didn’t already know, is just sheet music. No CD, no link to downloadable MP3s, nada. I have to puzzle out the melodies on my guitar, drawing on long forgotten undergraduate music theory to get the rhythms right. It is a pain in the ass. The album would sound better if it were professionally recorded, by a real artist.
And yet. When I finally manage to play through ‘I’m Down,’ and ‘America, Here’s My Boy,’ and ‘Do We? We Do,’ it is revelatory. I have just channeled Beck’s spirit through printed paper! The first versions of Beck’s songs I hear are my own! This is an amazing feeling.”
- Beautiful and Exciting and Profoundly Different: On Beck’s Song Reader by Alan Levinovitz
The fact is, when censorship fits with one’s values, even the staunchest defenders of free speech are willing to bend the rules. Take the ALA, perhaps the most vociferous opponents of censorship in America. Through the Association for Library Service to Children, they administer the prestigious Newbery Medal, awarded to countless banned and challenged classics. In 2007, The New York Times reported how the ALA cried censorship when some librarians foresaw pressure from parents and refused to purchase 2007 Newbery winner The Higher Power of Lucky. The reason? “Scrotum” appears on the first page of the book. Presumably requests to publish a bowdlerized version without the offensive word would have met with similar disapprobation. Conservative mores getting in the way of free speech yet again.
The movie adaptation of The Lorax opens on March 2nd, Dr. Seuss’ birthday. His yellow-mustached crusader now appears on countless billboards and buses, and stars in environmentally conscious ads. I’m pleased that the grumpy guy is getting so much attention. He speaks for the trees (the Truffula Trees!), and the Humming-Fish, and the Swomee-Swans, and the Brown Bar-ba-loots. A good creature. An important message. A powerful ally in the fight against Gluppity-Glupp and smogulous smoke, the byproducts of Thneed overproduction.
So it upset me when I heard that in 1989 a group of parents tried to censor The Lorax. They took out a full-page newspaper ad accusing second-grade teachers of brainwashing students. Who would do that? Only someone who doesn’t understand the value of free speech, right?
Let’s be clear: blurbs are not a distinguished genre. In 1936 George Orwell described them as “disgusting tripe,” quoting a particularly odious example from the Sunday Times: “If you can read this book and not shriek with delight, your soul is dead.” He admitted the impossibility of banning reviews, and proposed instead the adoption of a system for grading novels according to classes, “perhaps quite a rigid one,” to assist hapless readers in choosing among countless life-changing masterpieces. More recently Camille Paglia called for an end to the “corrupt practice of advance blurbs,” plagued by “shameless cronyism and grotesque hyperbole.” Even Stephen King, a staunch supporter of blurbs, winces at their “hyperbolic ecstasies” and calls for sincerity on the part of blurbers.