Saturday, September 13, 2008

Edited Version

I read a lot of books. I generally have one book at work I read on lunch breaks so I don't have to talk to people if I don't want to, and another one at home to read before I fall asleep. And hell, after 10 years of marriage, it's not like there's anything else going on in that bed anyway.

I'm not one to make a big deal about it or anything, like wearing READ buttons or sighing when people talk about "American Idol" and reprimanding them for not reading Plato or "The Federalist Papers" or something.

Lately, however, my reading has only served to make me angry. I was reading this book called "Heavy Metal Islam" at work. Basically the premise of the book is that young people in repressive, war-torn countries in the Middle East are increasingly turning to extreme forms of music, which could possibly incite a Velvet Revolution-type situation. Pretty interesting, huh?

So I'm going along fine, until the author mentions Iron Maiden's mascot, Freddy. Freddy? Jesus, who with a passing knowledge of metal doesn't know his name is Eddie? He also confuses a couple album titles for band names.

I still finished the book, although that Freddy thing still bugged me.

Then I was reading this book called "In Heaven, Everything is Fine," about this flamboyant dude who wrote the song that the lady in the radiator sings in "Eraserhead," and who starred in "New Wave Theater," which was apparently a nexus for National Lampoon/early Saturday Night Live people and Los Angeles punk.

Although opening with a fight between Fear and Chevy Chase will pretty much guarantee that I'm going to read it, the thing hurt my head with all the fact errors and generalizations. Black Flag and the Circle Jerks had their heyday in the early '80s, not the mid '70s. Full body tattoos were more likely to be seen in the circus in 1984, rather than a punk show. Nobody was "moshing" in 1981, they were "skanking" or "slamming." You'd pick "New York's Alright if You Like Saxophones" as an offensive Fear song? Really? Over "Beef Bologna?" "I Love Livin' in the City?" "We Destroy the Family?" A Boston band was splitting their set between reggae and jazz in the late '60s? Reggae was barely born in the late '60s, would a band in Boston really be playing it and expecting people to care? Doesn't the abbreviation LA mean Lousiana instead of Los Angeles? Was Eddie Murphy even a cast member of SNL in 1981 when Fear appeared? Well, OK, that one seems to check out, but I shouldn't have to be fact checking for a book unless I'm getting paid for it.

Every time I catch something like that, not only does it take me out of the narrative, but I wonder how much other stuff the author got wrong. I mean, if you can't get Eddie's name right, why would I trust you when you tell me about death metal in Iraq?

Don't publishing companies hire editors anymore? Why can't I just relax and fall asleep reading a book instead of getting upset that nobody bothered to tell this dude that Iron Maiden's mummy guy is not named Freddy?


Linda Tate said...

My house smells just like the zoo
It chock full of shit and puke
Cockroaches on the walls
Crabs crawlin' on my balls
Ohh, well I'm so clean cut
I just wanna fuck some sluts

scott said...

Yeah, see? And somehow that's less offensive than a song that makes fun of New York?

Keith said...

Fact checking is dead, baby. If it's wrong, it'll get corrected in the comments area, anyway.

Books about metal and punk seem especially prone to errors, either because the person writing it is such an outsider to the culture, or because the people who are in the culture are sloppy, lazy, stupid, and/or insane. That's why I only trust Jack Chick to competently write on these subjects.

scott said...

Yeah, it's sort of like Pat pointed out years ago. Books on punk are either written by 19 year olds rehashing a bunch of old fanzine interviews or by guys who are trying to make their band/zine/whatever sound as instrumental as Black Flag or something.