After last week’s all-frauds-all-the-time post, I wanted to find more upbeat stories to read. I mostly managed it, maybe because I kept an eye out for stories about art and creativity. You know, that stuff we read for?
First, a New York Times Magazine article about Glenn Gould and his performances of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. I studied classical piano from the age of five through college, and I have the two recordings he made of these (plus outtakes from the first session). Sometimes I listen to them one after the other. I don’t think about classical music and performance analytically very often anymore, so I can’t tell you what it is about Gould that is so distinctive and compelling, but once you’ve heard him, you are either a fan for life or you run away. This article discusses the famous 1955 and 1981 recordings, :
To transcend means to climb over, and that is what he was doing in the act of recording. The “Goldberg” Variations is a piece of architecture. Gould is climbing over Bach’s construction, clambering over the whole.
Gould used the studio, first of all, to give full expression to the variety of the parts. By recording the variations one at a time, in multiple takes, he set them apart from one another, exaggerating their individuality. Each of them can be considered with wonder. But something is lost when the variations are taken apart — sold separately, as it were. Gould recognized this as well, and even as he used technology to isolate the parts, he used his technique as a pianist to make them whole.
If you’ve never heard Gould play Bach, you can (of course) find him on YouTube. Or you can watch the DVD Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, a wonderful (fictional) film about him in which Colm Feore plays Gould.
Next up, Philip Roth tries to alter a Wikipedia entry about himself and fails. Wikipedia requires that any edits to existing material be properly sourced and cited. The subject is not considered an adequate source. So Roth wrote an open letter to Wikipedia, which is posted at The New Yorker website:
I am Philip Roth. I had reason recently to read for the first time the Wikipedia entry discussing my novel “The Human Stain.” The entry contains a serious misstatement that I would like to ask to have removed. This item entered Wikipedia not from the world of truthfulness but from the babble of literary gossip—there is no truth in it at all.
Yet when, through an official interlocutor, I recently petitioned Wikipedia to delete this misstatement, along with two others, my interlocutor was told by the “English Wikipedia Administrator”—in a letter dated August 25th and addressed to my interlocutor—that I, Roth, was not a credible source: “I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work,” writes the Wikipedia Administrator—“but we require secondary sources.
At first I thought this was ridiculous on Wiki’s part, but then I read Chris Meadows’ post on the subject at The Digital Reader:
As silly as the idea that an author might not be a “credible” source about his own book might first appear, there are good reasons behind it when you think about it. There is, of course, the conflict of interest issue, which is pretty obvious—if someone’s being paid to alter the writeup, how can you be sure he’s not doing so according to the interests of his employer rather than of the truth? If someone’s altering the writeup about something he himself did, how can you know he’s not doing it out of his own interests?
But consider, also, that authors can say anything they want to about their books after the fact. More importantly, they can change their minds on what they say after the fact, and they can be rather hard to get ahold of if you want to verify what they actually said (especially if they’re since deceased). Consider the late Ray Bradbury’s 2007 insistence that Fahrenheit 451, understood for decades to be a salvo against censorship, was actually meant as a salvo against television and other new media. If that was the case, why didn’t he speak up about it before? It’s not like critics made any great secret of their interpretations.
I can think of a few authors and other artists who would love to rewrite history and have attempted to do just that. So maybe Wiki has a good point.
Next up, author Carolyn Jewel discovers a whole new way that fake reviews are being propagated on the web: via RPG strategies. Nate at The Digital Reader has an excellent take on it as well. As Carolyn puts it so cogently:
I understand that the RPG is mostly played by kids and young adults. And I bet it’s fun. But the process of using a third party’s website as an extension of the game does impact authors as well as B&N. Some of those books have over a hundred reviews, but only the first few are legitimate. ALL of the rest are these RPG comments. Not all the comments are 5 stars. A fair number are 1 star. This means that book is unfairly up-ranked or down-ranked in the overall star rating. Suppose a potential buyer only sees the first few legitimate reviews and, further, sees 100+ reviews. I noted, by the way, that they appear to be choosing books that have at least one lengthy review — so that the garbage entries are hidden (as it were) below the fold. The reader will have a false sense of how popular the book is. And so would B&N
I confess, this is a whole new one for me when it comes to misleading and useless reviews.
And finally, if you were wondering what on earth Clint Eastwood was doing at the GOP convention, talking to that chair, he explains it all in an interview with a journalist for his local paper, the Carmel Pine Cone:
After a quick trip through airport-style security, he was taken to a Green Room, where Archbishop Dolan of New York sought him out to say hello. Then he was taken backstage to wait for his cue. And that was when inspiration struck.
“There was a stool there, and some fella kept asking me if I wanted to sit down,” Eastwood said. “When I saw the stool sitting there, it gave me the idea. I’ll just put the stool out there and I’ll talk to Mr. Obama and ask him why he didn’t keep all of the promises he made to everybody.”
He asked a stagehand to take it out to the lectern while he was being announced.
Well, that clears everything up.
My week is full of classes, meetings, seminars, and visitors. On the plus side, though, the humidity is down and the temperature is perfect. Have a great week!