We live in a country of hippies, visual learners. The problem is, these hippies have been told that it’s bad to be hippies, that inner harmony is a sign of weakness, so they’ve taken, constantly, to outward expression, even if it just means vitriolic antipathy.
If you have the internet, and have freedom, in America, you’re automatically a star. You don’t have to answer to anyone, and you can try to defeat everyone. Every night, you can go back to your heated apartment or house, hear any music on the planet, and not even have to learn an ulterior language: the internet is already catered to English.
People will devour free music with the same voracity they wield to a Big Mac or a South Bend beer: unashamedly, and with subsequent conscious dismissal. The thinkers of the music industry then blame the inventors for ruining the commerce, for making all the songs available without charge: why not just blame humanity itself? Individuals sitting on their computers each have the conscious choice to financially support artists in which they’re interested, and many choose not to. At very least, for this, they deserve the attention of blame, for this unscrupulous consumption. My town contains like a zillion hair salons, and one, one, record store. This should tell you something about the ideological angle people take on life.
So this PJ Harvey book of poetry is coming out tomorrow. PJ Harvey, for anyone who doesn’t know, was in the ’90’s making the music the Soundgarden guys would have given their left testicle to make. It was just as raw and voluminous, but more focused, smarter, wittier, more viscerally grounded in metaphor and literary context (as you’d expect), and just, plain, better. She bashed it out with uncompromising abandon, only stepping her game up in intensity, on Rid of Me’s “Rub ‘til it Bleeds,” and To Bring You My Love’s “Long Snake Moan.”
She was never made a star in the mainstream, and even if she were, releases of poetry typically aren’t a big deal. You can find Jewel’s book in our library here, but you can’t exactly hear people talking about it over a Grand Slam at Denny’s. But Harvey’s The Hollow of the Hand comes out tomorrow, and in a just world, it would be anticipated as apocrypha. Harvey’s career, from album to album, plays as a gut-wrenching journey of humanity, from unfounded negativity, to romantic glee, on to every-bit-justified negativity, to sparse, haunting “Silence,” and again on back to a literary zoom-out, all steeped in deep British classic rock like The Who and Fleetwood Mac, but given aching, plaintive production and undeniable emphasis. She’s not a woman who lacks angles: as an artist, she’s seen things from every way, she’s seen hot and cold, bitter and sweet, the glamorous spotlight, and the itchy, drafty, solitary cup of tea.
Granted, I’m writing this from the Eastern half of the United States, Indiana. The East is more dominated by the internet, the realm in which, in googling “The Hollow of the Hand,” I found the exact same stories I did three months ago, this, the day before the book’s release. I used to live in Colorado, and people out there would be reading constantly. They’d TALK about reading, they’d feel ashamed if it took them four weeks to finish Anna Karenina (even I a former English major would be lucky to get through it in that). We’d exchange quips about Alan Watts, raving about him, and one girl would brag that her friend has a tattoo of Richard Brautigan’s face. So I cannot speak to how it is out there. It’s possible, nay, probable, that there is a measurable buzz about PJ Harvey’s book of poetry coming out, and those people just don’t bother with the internet. We in the Midwest are slaves to crushing work weeks. We have “work ethics,” something largely foreign to the rest of the country (though not the world). When we get off work, we are stomping, fuming, angry. Everybody I work with, even at this fine dining restaurant in my town, listens to Slipknot, even the 55 year old dishwasher. The library exists as a good beacon of knowledge, but PJ Harvey’s book should be celebrated AS MERCHANDISE, in this country so specializing in such. There’s an added zeal, spirit, about a purchase. You can pick this book up, and go grab a coffee and a slice of cheesecake, and sit down and enjoy, see an actual person’s perspective, fine tuned and seasoned over the years, not trying to tell you anything.
But people’s money, more and more, goes to VISIBLE things — TV’s, hair, vacations. What could save the world, if not intellectual depth, and does a country this dismissive of original human expression really deserve an increase in its minimum wage?