Friday, December 7, 2007

The post-literate 1980s - Thriller to the rescue

I've been engaged in an ongoing exchange with my friend Eric Caplan, a McGill University Prof. (I don't hold that against him). We like to talk about the state of the arts, he from the standpoint of pop music (he's a fine musician, plays with an occasional cover band of university associates calling themselves The Diminished Faculties), me from the point of view of literature. Lately, I've started calling the 1980s "the post-literate 80s" since I can't think of a writer who emerged during that period who has influenced in any meaningful way the writers of the current generation. On the contrary, it seems to me that younger writers are looking farther and farther back for their influences. In American literature for instance, Jonathan Safran Foer seems to have more in common with Isaac Bashevis-Singer than Philip Roth or Saul Bellow. In a recent e-mail Eric said that Madonna and Michael Jackson were the last two artists to really make a pop music splash. My point about the post-literate 80s made. Perhaps this also explains the resurgence of groups like the Beatles and new interest in Bob Dylan. I think it's more than just nostalgia. These are the musicians that remain genuinely artistically relevant and influential. Reminder: In February Epic/Legacy is planning to release a special 25th anniversary edition of Thriller to honour the watershed cultural moment of its original release. Industry execs are sitting on shpilkes, hoping against hope that this will mean at least a temporary stay of execution for the recording industry as we know it.

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