Thursday, September 22, 2005

Folk Synergy

I WAS THINKING about what would've happened had Buddy Holly not died in 1959 in a plane crash. He was already living in Greenwich Village (then an authentic bohemian neighborhood), would've likely been living there a couple years later when Bob Dylan moved into the neighborhood. What an encounter that would've been!-- the most intelligent and adaptable of the early rock n' roll stars listening at some grungy folk club to the unknown bard of folk music.

Early rock n' roll in its essence, in its various strands, was folk music. Rock at its beginning was the music of the hinterlinds, the ghettoes, and the people. Elvis himself was referred to as a folk singer in his first recording years-- the sound of the Sun Sessions is similar to that of the early Bob Dylan.

Folk synergy of the literary kind is to be found in the Underground Literary Alliance-- with added edge. We're bringing together various strands of folk writers; DIY self-created purveyors of verse and prose living authentic lives in the gritty corners of this land; capturing, representing, embodying the rhythmns and voice of the populace.

Establishment literature, created and nurtured within giant institutions, is many things, but it's not folk writing. A Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Muddy Waters or Hank Williams is not to be found there.

Which brings us to Rick Moody's new novel. Call it glib, showy, intellectual, or accomplished; for all anyone knows it might be the best the establishment machine can now offer. It's a universe removed from what the ULA does. The Diviners is a product of the machine, created from on high after much deliberation and training. Its emphasis is on facile skill, not the soul.The book represents not truth, not authenticity, not the new, but the culmination of process. If you compared Moody to musicians during Rock's early years, it'd be to slick corporate popular musicians of the era like Mantovani or Les Brown and his Band of Renown. There are no rough edges to polish or complain about, because there were never any rough edges to start with. No one would think of discovering Moody in a bohemian neighborhood, or finding new wisdom there if you did. You may as well seek artistic wisdom from an executive at General Motors. Rick Moody was discovered on estate lawns; in the salons and ivy-covered institutional halls of the status quo. His book doesn't experience America from within. It glimpses the nation from above, portraying the superficial noise and flash of a television show.

If you want to meet today's folk writers you'll come to Philly to listen to Frank Walsh or argue with Michael Grover. You would've been here July 16th when we brought folk-lit pioneer Jack Saunders to town. You'd have seen Jack's encounter with young smart-aleck lit stars like Patrick King, Brady Russell, and others. You would've taken part in the new literary folk synergy which has only begun.

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