This is how we walk on the moon
Did the world’s axis slip a bit today, spinning it – as a DJ would – a half-beat closer to a more perfect rhythm? I’m inclined to say so. Perhaps that sounds overly puffed up with gravitas, but c'mon; people have been bitching about the New Yorker's pop culture coverage for how long? And now this? Hot damn.
Critics shore up their failings by aping other critics, which is in part why I’m embarrassed, at times, by my admiration for SF/J. But his writing, like his first piece for the New Yorker, on Arthur Russell, does things that I don’t see anywhere else. You can hear him thinking, phrase by phrase, untangling thoughts and taking the time, while his fingers prod and buckle, to crack little private jokes to himself. But unlike the word-glutted puns and pileups of most of our contemporary scribes, my alliterative self included, Sasha’s asides are worth eavesdropping on. His quips are understated: “One of the singers, Melvina Woods, repeats, ‘Is it all over my face? You’ve caught me love dancing,’ which is fairly unimposing, as chants go.” He downplays his observations without being deprecating. His sentences trail off into obviousness that you or I would not have thought to phrase so cleanly: “Patient business partners and label owners paid for these sessions, hoping for pop products to sell, not avant-garde experiments. It is to Russell’s credit that they are somehow both.” And he always unearths an innocence in even the most complex subjects, in part by paring down phrases to become something you could say to a mother or a cousin or a coworker. “His dance singles were sounding more and more like birthday parties, possibly for people turning six.”
I’m glad that Sasha is writing for the New Yorker; this can only be good for everyone. I’m overjoyed that his first piece concerns Arthur Russell, an artist who should be everyone’s. A good day for populism, in the best sense.