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Monday, December 31, 2012

ApeDonkey's Best of 2012

Coming in just before the last calendar page in 2013 is torn off and tossed away, some shadowy figure named the ApeDonkey (AKA Cory Worell) names Everything Is an Afterthought one of the best books he read in 2012.

I've added the link to what the ApeDonkey had to say to the "Press" section of this website, or you can save yourself the trip and read it here.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Up the Amazon

Amazon's recent decision to purge thousands of customer book reviews from its site does seem a tad arbitrary and lacking in logic--especially when the company's only defense of its rationale was almost early Dylanesque: “We do not require people to have experienced the product in order to review.”

Speaking selfishly, although my book Everything Is an Afterthought only received four customer reviews on Amazon, I'd hate to lose them (especially the qualified one by my friend Jimmy Kanakis) or the scant comments they generated. They comment not only on the book as readers, but also as people who knew its subject.

Customer reviews are always suspect. Taste in works of art or entertainment is too personal, to quirky, to be left to a complete stranger. At their worst, these reviews smack of those usually uninformed woman- and man-on-the-street interviews that advertisers use to convince us that we should plunk down our hard-earned cash because normal folk like us did just that. At their best, however, customer reviews create a kind of dialogue that can inform the buyer. And for all that's wrong with the customer review system, it's better than Amazon deciding for us what we should buy.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

285 Words

Paul Nelson was always at his best when he wrote about something he loved, when he was an appreciator, a champion. And while he could perceptively convey what was wrong with a work of art, sometimes, if that work or its artist got under his skin, Paul could be merciless. And very funny.

Witness the 285-word review (Rolling Stone, December 13, 1979) of J.D. Souther's You're Only Lonely, which not only refused to take any prisoners but inadvertently ended Paul's close friendships with Jackson Browne and Warren Zevon.

"I have no specific recollection of the above mentioned review itself," Souther himself generously e-mailed me back in 2008 when I was still researching and writing Everything Is an Afterthought, "though I remember Warren telling me he would trade the mean review or, for that matter, a rave review for a decent check anytime. Warren and I were staunch friends, in our way, unreserved fans of each other’s work, and always greeted each other with the same exchange; a slight bow, the words '...Fellow Classicist,' and a hug. I still carry his G harp with me when I travel but, out of respect, only play it (poorly, I fear) occasionally and usually in private.

"I remember the Nelson review mostly through Jackson’s reaction to it and Warren’s puzzled expression (a rarity) and caustic remarks (less rare) as to what must have preceded the reviewer’s missing the point so profoundly and publicly. Linda [Ronstadt] guessed I must have done something to make him (the reviewer) mad sometime before that, which is possible, as I was sometimes unintentionally curt with people back then, but I honestly don’t remember such an incident or anything said in the review itself.

"Maybe he should have been a bit nicer to me, but you can never predict anyone’s reaction to any art of any kind. I remember in studying Picasso, being stunned to learn that when Guernica was shown in New York, despite its political and artistic importance, not to mention its 11’x26’ dimensions, it was dismissed by one well-known critic of the time as a lukewarm version of his earlier work.

"It seems to me that anyone may have an incomprehensible reaction to any stimuli at any given time. So, I guess, however informed, there is really only the eye of the beholder in play here, wouldn’t you say?"

Paul Nelson's review also generated an indignant letter to the editor from the Eagles' Don Henley, also a friend of Souther's, who called Paul "an obviously biased little prick." Such letters from Henley, to not only critics he disagreed with but also to friends he was at odds with, were not uncommon. Nor, apparently, were the occasional physical threats.

Last year, critic Robert Christgau, responding to comments some readers had made about Henley in response to Christgau's MSN review of Brad Paisley's The Lonely Island (are all of these guys lonely?), wrote: "I'm not sure he's threatened violence, but he's sure written some mean letters, and I think one of them may have been to me. Think I just read about one in the Paul Nelson book--perhaps in response to Nelson's J.D. Souther review that began, 'If narcissism paid two bucks an hour, J.D. Souther would be a billionaire.'"

Christgau added: "(BTW, for some insane reason I just did the math on a calculator. Unless I'm making a mistake, it would take 57 years to reach a million at that rate.)"

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Saturday, December 22, 2012


As a reminder, all articles and reviews pertaining to Everything Is an Afterthought, Conversations with Clint, or Paul Nelson in general may be found by following the PRESS link on this website. A new addition is rock journalist and DJ J.J. Syrja's piece, "The Remarkable and Tragic Paul Nelson." Although penned back on February 27, it just came to my attention this morning.

Which reminds me: If you know of any other Paul Nelson-related press, online or otherwise, that's missing from the PRESS link, I'd appreciate your bringing it to my attention.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

"Is Springsteen Worth the Hype?"

Thanks to Google, you can see Paul Nelson's classic article, "Is Springsteen Worth the Hype?," in its original Village Voice appearance. Reading it takes a little bit of navigation: what actually begins on the issue's last page (95 in its Google incarnation), continues and concludes on page 94 in the paper (93 in Google).

And while the piece, written back in 1975 when Bruce was just on the verge of becoming the legendary performer he has become, is well worth reading (or rereading), it's important to note that it's incomplete. Paul himself apparently decided to remove a revelatory passage about Springsteen and David Bowie before the article went to press. (The full, unexpurgated piece appears in Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson.)

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