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“Beck: Is He Suffering from the ‘Salinger Condition’?”

*Originally posted on 6/25, reposted because of technical difficulties.

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I have a confession to make: I am a postmodern person. Some might call me “schizophrenic.” My condition pertains to an inability to process reality. What makes it even worse is that I just DIAGNOSED this inability in myself this very morning, after drinking a lot last night — clarity through incoherence. Well, acknowledgement of myopia is the first step to forging a path of truth and I feel I’m well on my way there, although I consider my chances of enjoying the result as next to nil.
This biography Beck: The Art of Mutation by Nevin Martell has been sitting on my apartment floor for like three months… over the spring I was bogged down by a course load and teaching assignment in grad school after which time I just lost track of the impulse to read it. Just this morning I picked it back up and learned something shocking: Beck’s grandfather, Al Hansen, as a part of the Andy Warhol “Factory” scene, was instrumental in bestowing The Velvet Underground their name, by way of a “semipornographic book” [1] he had.
And I think we all love rock and roll. Wait, check that: I forgot about Valerie Solanas. I really don’t think Valerie Solanas cares much for rock and roll. After all, she said in her book SCUM Manifesto [2] that men’s only goal in life is to “do a good plumbing job.” [3] Then she shot Andy Warhol, so she must not have been really FEELIN’ the proceedings, despite indeed being apparently part of the “Factory” scene.
And ok: this is part of my problem. People write with a mind-boggling lack of anger and moral compunction when discussing this figure Valerie Solanas. And I quoth Martell: “Al Hansen was a part of Warhol’s Factory; in fact he was one of the first people to discover the injured pop artist SCUM… leader Valerie Solanas shot him (Hansen bumped into her on the elevator as she made her hasty retreat, smoking gun still in hand). He later made (sic) a book about the incident entitled Why Shoot Andy Warhol? In another Pop-up Video aside, Hansen is even responsible for Velvet Underground’s moniker…” So as you can see, he mentions the attempted homicide episode and then makes no whatsoever insertion of opinion, or reconciliation of its extenuating nature. [4]
Ok, here’s how I would describe the general analysis of Miss Solanas and her exploits: it’s rendered as if it were fictional material, like content of a movie, thereby implying that the examination of life itself as a movie is chic. Now, the perceptive onlooker has no choice but to draw one of two conclusions from the way that this phenomenon is portrayed in media. The first possibility is that there’s a sexism at work in favor of women, forgiving women’s their ideas and behavior (I don’t think I’m making too bold of a statement by calling SCUM “heinous” and genuinely hope I’m not alone in this sentiment) if and when said heinous ideas and behavior should materialize. The other, of course, which disturbingly, might be closer to the real reality, is a keen assuaging of guilt in murderers within the postmodern society in which we live. [5]
I mentioned Beck in the early part of this blurb and had initially intended to make him a more prominent focus of it, but obviously got sidetracked by some asserting issues. As many people may know, we’re now experiencing many disturbing things in America, one of which is the perpetually delayed new Beck album which may or may not feature the excellent single “Wow.” NME reported on March 1 that “Beck has set a release date for spring for his forthcoming new album” [6] [7]. Yet here we are in summer, googling “new beck album” and still getting images of Morning Phase.
I mention the “Salinger condition” and this is not something that has actually been established as an official psychological condition (probably because it’s way too depressing to be supported as such), but it has to do with what Bukowski deemed, within a long poem describing the maladies of various voices, as “Salinger deciding the world wasn’t worth writing for.” Just earlier today I was thinking about that one live version, too, of “Mr. Jones” where Adam Duritz changes the lyrics into something along the lines of dealing with how “fu**ed up” fame is, a conclusion which, it would seem, probably isn’t based on the behavior of dogs. Indeed, disillusion among west coast artists upon propagation of their material certainly seems to be a heavy thing America is dealing with, although the Band of Horses migration to the Carolinas provides an interesting moderation. Anyway, it’s just a thought. Well, it’s not like we have a shortage of music in America.
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[1] Martell, Nevin. Beck: The Art of Mutation. Pocket Books, 2001.
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[2] “SCUM” stands for “Society for Cutting up Men.”
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[3] I’m assuming she’s referring to commercial bathrooms here, not personal households.
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[4] I noticed that the Valerie Solanas biography on Amazon includes a subtitle referencing that she “Shot Andy Warhol,” another instance of this information thrown into a discussion as if it were trivial or else the ideologically blank attempt to draw readers.
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[5] I’ve always been particularly disturbed by the treatment of the Nancy Kerrigan incident. Nancy Kerrigan was an Olympic figure skater (American) who was assaulted coming out of practice one evening, by a man many believe to have been tied to Kerrigan’s rival skater Tonya Harding. Certain despicable people would actually make fun of the way Kerrigan exclaimed after the beating. Now, there’s a biopic coming out handling the two figures… but it centers on Harding (I, Tonya), the reason for this focus arguably unclear.
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[6] “Beck sets release date for new album and talks failed Pharrell collaboration.”
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[7] Of course, the perceptive onlooker should have become skeptical upon seeing “spring” referred to as the specific “date,” I suppose.

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