Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Lit Spat

I'm not a particularly literary sort - I like reading, but I'm not one for bagging the classics; never read Jane Austen, War & Peace, any of those kind of works. So when I was struggling to remember any of the great literary grudge matches that have gone on over the years, the only one I could recall without use of the electric internet was that between V S Naipaul and Paul Theroux (father of Louis), and the only reason I could remember that one is that Paul Theroux is one of my favourite authors. (His travel books are Bill Bryson-esqe without some of the bubblegum, and his fiction is much underrated in my view (My Secret History being my favourite)). The two of them fell out many years ago over something trivial, and the bile that each of them has unleashed since has been wonderful to behold - and they've used columns, interviews and other media to unleash it. Disappointingly as far as connoisseurs of the insult are concerned, the two of them are now on speaking terms again.

Why do I mention this? Well my friends, great mate and fellow blogger Mendip Rouleur shared this offering with the world on Sunday night: http://t.co/0Ov5vBimpm, a piece in which he castigates both some of my musical preferences, and my 'thinking' approach to music generally. I did think of posting a comment at the bottom of his blog, but frankly, it's much more entertaining to go down the passive-aggressive route of writing the social media equivalent of an open letter back to him, i.e. this.

Now, I'm not going to criticise either his musical tastes, not least because I've not bothered to listen to the links of any of the songs he's raved about in his blog, so have no grounds to do so. But even if I had what I considered to be grounds, it would only be my opinion, and trading insults over subjective opinions is futile. I can't bear it when someone observes "that genre/band/song is rubbish". No, you might not like it, but that does not constitute empirical evidence of its rubbishness.

What I'm going to take issue with is two things, the first a generalisation, the second a question of philosophy.

The generalisation: Mr Rouleur (as I shall be forced to call him if our mutual vendetta is truly to have wings) doesn't make the mistake of saying heavy metal is rubbish, merely just that it's "not his cup of tea". Fair enough, but to the aficionado of the rock and metal oeuvre, that's tantamount saying "I don't much like food". What, none? I bet I could locate a track that in an unguarded moment my blogging sparring partner would grudgingly admit to being alright. It would have to be all angsty and meaning-laden, but if I trawled Jethro Tull's back catalogue I'm sure we could come up with the goods.

And the question of philosophy: I vividly recall a moment when Mr Rouleur and I were sharing a room during one of our Pyrenean escapades, and I was bouncing around to some latest piece of Euro-chart-disco-shite, and he turned to me with great solemnity and sadness and asked (rhetorically I think, seriously I'm sure) "you just listen to music to enjoy it don't you?" Dear reader, I'm tempted to make no further comment other than "I rest my case", or possibly "Er....yes".

But I shall not yield to that temptation. Yes, I do listen to music to enjoy it - possibly just for the sake of the music itself, possibly to enhance some other activity (e.g. running, relaxing, dancing [especially when I'm washing up; you should try it - turn drudge into joy]). Music is not work - it's not something to be endured or prodded and poked for virtue; listening to it for its content and significance is not worthy in its own right. It's an enabler for a mood, just like booze and other stimulants / depressives. It's to be appreciated in its own right, which is why, as well as rock and metal, I like many, many other forms - old stuff, modern stuff, rap, grunge, disco, electro, folk, garage, goth, opera (even if it just musicals for posh folk), and yes, even some jazz. My mind is open to the possibility of greatness without meaning.

So there we have it - the opinion of a hard-hearted, latter-day, cynical management consultant. Do you parley or respond sir?

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