A Century of Baiting!

on Monday, December 6, 2010
Holy libraries! Not quite sure how I managed to keep this thing going but with this here post, Bait For Bookworms turns 100. Yes, I realise using a post celebrating my 100th post to clock up my 100th post is as ridiculously self-perpetuating as 'the most photographed barn in America' in Don Delillo's White Noise, but hey, like the great man himself and a whole slew of his postmodernist friends would attest, who needs substance when you can peddle sweet-smelling nothing? I had actually intended my 100th post to be about the 150th book I had read this year, but I'm still only on the 148th and have a bunch of crap I want to rattle off NOW DADDY (props to Veruca Salt for that one).

For those of you who have just found this humble blog by way of Sunday Night Safran on Triple J, welcome. If you're just here to see the biblical limericks, click on the August tab on your right and they shall be... um... revealed. I hope you enjoy reading them, even if the tone as written seems lacking without the irreverent joviality of the wonderful Father Bob Maguire. For those who want to hear the interview, you will be able to download the podcast soon at http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/safran/ (they usually lag a couple of weeks behind). Needless to say, until you hear a 76 year-old rebel priest recite Genesis in limerick form, you haven't lived!

In other news, I have had much cause to ponder the fate of literary crossover artists since word got out that the 92nd Street Y has offered refunds to those who came to see Steve Martin in conversation with Deborah Solomon at the great New York cultural hub. Far be it from me to diss the venue - my band played there one year when we were touring the States - but seriously what were the audience expecting? Stand-up comedy? Martin was there to promote his new novel, An Object of Beauty which, from all accounts, is a serious and seriously good meditation on the art world. Seems the dirty rotten scoundrels who turned up were two brains short of independent thought and just didn't get what they were in for. They came hoping to witness a Steve Martin laughathon and career retrospective. Instead they got a dose of deep, contemplative literary culture sans a single sombrero. Or Chevy Case. Ouch. Naturally, they reacted the only way disgruntled New Yorkers know how - with a flurry of indignant emails. Rather than standing up for Martin, the folk at 92nd Street Y issued an official apology and offered anyone who was disappointed with the 'show' a $50 refund gift certificate. Never mind that Martin had done the appearance for free. Or that they did not bother to consult him about the audience dissatisfaction before taking their consumer-is-always-right action. Or that the fault really seems to lie with the promotion and organisation of the event - it was clearly in the 92nd Street Y's interests to rely on Martin's reputation to draw a crowd. The comedian, it turns out had the last laugh. Sol Adler, 92nd Street bigwig, has now had to publicly apologise to Martin. Yet happy although the ending may seem, this entire episode suggests a much deeper problem. We, as a pop cultural consuming public, seem to take issue with our heroes stepping outside of the box into which we have stuffed them. Comedians doing serious literature, musicians writing books, actors doing music. We just don't like it. Granted it is often with good reason. Many who try fail dismally. But the fact we don't allow them to soar even when, like Steve Martin, they have produced a work of genuine importance illustrates our limitations, not theirs.

Anyway, enough preaching from my soapbox. Happy 100 y'all. I'm just going to sit back now and await my letter from the Queen.


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