Sunday, January 13, 2008

Wherever You Are

It’s impossible to read Carl Wilson’s terrific Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste without reflecting on your own personal history of preference, and scrutinizing it under scientific and anecdotal microscopes the author uses to brilliantly refute pretty much every reason there is for disliking the book’s ostensible subject, Celine Dion (the fact that Wilson still can only sell himself half-heartedly on Dion’s music at the end of his project adds another fascinating layer to his study).

I recognize that I had to dig out from underneath years of educational and cultural skewing to get to a point where I could meet Ashlee Simpson and Kenny Chesney on their own terms, though I also acknowledge being kind of a dick to the extent that I sometimes take an inordinate amount of satisfaction in these "breakthroughs." Wilson’s book is an excellent serum for unearthing some ugly truths – inside my own head I have an unfortunate tendency to distinguish myself favorably from some of my fellow critics by my comparative distance from certain trendy spheres and identity markers. After all, I live in the South, and rabidly follow sports, and most of my non-cyber friends don’t give the slightest shit about music beyond listening to stuff like Linkin Park.

In my less-proud moments I tend to think of those identifying traits as being part of what makes me more genuine and less tainted by hipster bullshit than some of my comrades (along with my super-omnivorous taste, of course). What’s likely closer to the truth is that the socioeconomic role in which I’ve placed myself (consciously and unconsciously) has allowed these tastes to ferment with far more ease than they would have if I’d been approaching them from a different background and in a different environment. In other words, how much credit should I get for listening to Carrie Underwood and Maroon 5 when I live in a condo in Raleigh, NC with my wife and cat, and work in the Admin Services department of a state government commission? How probable is it that I’d listen to this stuff if I lived in a loft in Williamsburg with three or four Deerhoof fans and worked for Busted Tees?

(Wilson’s examination of shame is spot-on too – even in the kind of office where I work, I was inordinately self-conscious when listening to Celine last week. Lauren and I often joke that given much of the stuff I pipe through my computer’s speakers in the office – Britney, Kylie, the Veronicas, Roisin Murphy, just to name a few in recent heavy rotation – some of my colleagues are liable to have questioned my sexuality, even knowing I’m married).


Alfred Soto said...

If you lived in a Williamsburg loft with three or four Deerhoof fans I'd likely never speak to you again.

Tal said...

What Alfred said.

Tal said...

...and a great post on a great book.