Arts Desk

Five Books I’d Read

in which the author discusses five books he'd read, if time permitted.

1. What Was The Hipster?: A Sociological Investigation, by Mark Greif et. al.
Does a sociological investigation that purports to challenge the cultural currency of a bankrupt archetype merely, by sheer fact of its existence, reinforce, reify, and extend that archetype's shelf-life? I don't know, but maybe the answer is at the bottom of this pile of Vice magazines. Because, really, if you think about it, that's what life's about: staying so ahead of the curve that you're actually behind the curve, making fun of that curve in a glossy tabloid.

2. Shakespeare's Freedom, by Stephen Greenblatt.
Remember when Mel Gibson was cool? When I saw Gibson's Hamlet at the Ritz Five in downtown Philadelphia in 1990, I thought I was making a countercultural statement. No more would Shakespeare belong to snooty old bastards! Here was a Hamlet for the MTV Generation! Little I know that, a mere decade after winning 1,000,000 Oscars for having his balls cut off in Braveheart, Gibson would prove a heavyweight in the anti-Semitism department by making the odious Passion of the Christ with its hook-nosed, filthy, Jesus-killing Jews and, in his spare time, drunkenly interrogating a police officer about his membership in the Tribe. And, a mere five years after that, start screaming at his baby momma about her mastitis in clandestinely recorded cell phone calls. I guess, in the end, Mel Gibson let me down. But, really, if you think about it, that's what life's about: trusting Mel Gibson, being let down by Mel Gibson, and learning from it.

3. Sophie Crumb: Evolution of a Crazy Artist, edited by S. Crumb, A. Crumb, and R. Crumb.
My godmother lived in the same neighborhood as R. Crumb in Delaware when she was a little girl. He used to draw pictures of people in the neighborhood, including her. But, when my godmother's mother found the portrait R. Crumb had drawn of my godmother lying around the house, she said R. Crumb was creepy and threw the drawing in the trash. Little did she know she was throwing away a valuable work of art. Just like the time I put a vinyl copy of the Caddyshack soundtrack on eBay. I thought I could get, like, at least $20 for that shit. But, after the buyer won the auction for a mere $1, he sent me an eBay email that was like, "You forgot to put a reserve price on that, dumb-ass. Thanks to your stupidity, I was able to complete 'Caddyshack' collection for almost nothing. And send that shit first class. I don't fuck around with media mail." I was humiliated. Once I paid for shipping, I actually lost money on the sale. But, really, if you think about it, that's what life's about: never, under any circumstances, buy Caddyshack memorabilia at a thrift store when you should be spending your valuable thrift-store-shopping time desperately searching for pants that are tight, but don't show off your package.

4. The "Fighting Temeraire" by Sam Willis.
I've never really been one of those dudes who gets boners reading about ships and sailors and cannons and Billy Budd and naval battles. Still, if I was, my pants would be bursting at the sight of this tome detailing the exploits of a well-known vessel that helped fight the Seven Years War between Britain and France in the 18th century. And, if you're the type that gets tumescent learning about sea voyages and pirates and impressment and walking the plank, I say, "Read away." Because, really, if you think about it, that's what life's about: cultivating interests that stimulate you, whether or not they help you get girls.

5. Me, by Ricky Martin.
Sometimes, people are ashamed for the wrong reasons. Like, for years, Ricky Martin was ashamed that he was gay. Instead, he should have been ashamed that, if unconfirmable rumors are to be believed, he recorded "Livin' La Vida Loca" digitally, making it the first completely digitally recorded song to hit No. 1. The betrayal of analog—that's something to be ashamed about. Because, really, if you think about it, that's what life's about: impressing Steve Albini.

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