Each Tuesday, FADER editor Matthew Schnipper highlights an underappreciated recent release he thinks we need to know about. This week it’s LCD Soundsystem’s "Yr City's a Sucker" 12-inch. Buy the song and read Schnipper’s thoughts on it after the jump.
I read hardcover books with the dust jacket removed. The main reason for this is posterity, to avoid crinkling delicate paper. My dad, an antique collector, once had a first edition Hemingway jacket or book without jacket, can’t remember which. He met a dealer who said he’d sell him the other half or buy it from him for the same price. Not that I buy books with any ear to future value, but it seemed irresponsible to disregard the knowledge. But potentially of more monetary value than mass market modern fiction first editions is the value of my anonymity. I don’t want people in public to know what I am reading. That is because I am embarrassed. And I mean this in the most deep, self-hating, ashamed way possible. Because I don’t get embarrassed about too much of my taste. I do not believe in the idea of “guilty pleasure,” hate the derogatory implications. Look, I saw Maid of Honor on purpose. It wasn’t the greatest thing I ever saw, but I didn’t shut it off. I watched half of He’s Just Not that Into You in a hotel and that’s only because I missed the first half. I own a pretty good amount of Kylie Minogue records. I like the Gin Blossoms and Jersey Shore. So while I hope I don’t have a plethora of harbingers of poor taste, it’s at least fairly wide sweeping and without disdain, high or low cultures. But the one thing I have a hard time with is things that are really, really made for me. Which is why I feel uncomfortable reading Jonathan Lethem. And until about two weeks ago, I never had. But for my extended holiday break, I picked up his new Chronic City, which has been widely loved and recommended. I figured reading it in Vermont wouldn’t cause much of a scene. It’s on the subway, in Brooklyn, that it’s embarrassing. I am the target audience. I hate being that. Lethem makes fun of people reading Infinite Jest (“Obstinate Dust” here), and that sounds about right. But then he wrote his own. It's confusing to know who to trust. Regardless, when traveling underground, propping open the spine to fellow riders to say, Guess what, I’m into smart stuff, doesn’t seem like the coolest thing to subconsciously throw out there because it just translates to I’m a douche. Save it for match.com, broseph.
I never read Lethem's Fortress of Solitude or Motherless Brooklyn. Motherless Brooklyn especially got my goat. Just the titles, I don’t even know what they are about. People on the train reading Motherless Brooklyn make my stomach sag. Especially if they are on the F train. You could also wear a name tag in the New Yorker font, these would be equally egregious puke enducers. If you could make frowny faced emoticons in real life I would do that. But I’m sure they are great books. I mean, dude won a genius grant. If he wrote Fatherless Farmington, I’d probably pick it up. (PS I was born in New York but moved when we were five, does that count? Hey, when did I get into authenticity? Bummer.) But there’s cushiness to so much self-reference—that Brooklyn born and raised Lethem should feel fine to recline in, and which if you want to join him on that soft literary chair, feel free to kick back—but it makes me feel icky. So it goes.
But getting over myself, or himself, or you, dude can write. Duh, I guess (genius grant!), but it’s another thing to experience for yourself, like some literally Russian roulette. What a thrill to not die. Sitting in a Vermont hotel room, exhausted after swimming in an indoor pool for 90 minutes with a 10-year-old girl (whatup Sophia, how's your dad?) it was a toss up between Will Smith’s Washington Square Park townhouse getting blown up in I Am Legend and Chronic City making me feel any pining for any place outside of New England, somehow slush filled New York City. Takes a lot. Getting out of here on Christmas was killer. And I’m Jewish. So I’m in a king-sized bed, my tiny self, reading this book and then page 152, Perkus Tooth, a main character, says “Sure, and what it detects is that your city’s a sucker,” [emphasis his]. And what’s weird about that is that it’s an LCD Soundsystem song. But not even a popular one. One that came out on the b-side of a 7-inch and then as a 12-inch with the instrumental on the B-side (and, yeah, was later included as the last track on the bonus disc of their debut album). This is after Lethem has routinely mentioned Sandy Bull, Television, Richard Hell (as a ringtone). Later he kind of makes fun of Sonic Youth (“Chthonic Youth”), talks constantly about rock critics. The dude has to know LCD Soundsystem. “Your city’s a sucker”? That’s a pretty random thing to pick up on. And then almost 150 pages later, more LCD, a more popular song, “All My Friends,” with a less direct reference. “Where are my friends? If he could see all his friends again the apartment or chalrons wouldn’t matter.”[emphasis his]. It’s not the literal lyric (If I could see all my friends tonight and If I could see all my friends tonight), but it’s pretty close. Ok, so maybe Lethem doesn’t make it up from Boerum Hill to Williamsburg that much (pretty sure I saw him walking his dog once when I worked in downtown Brooklyn. Could have also just been some dude that reads his books. Either way, he looked content.) But as a cultural dude surely he heard “All My Friends,” the number one song of 2008 as voted by every rock critic cabal, a crew Lethem seems fairly aware of. So in a book that devotes much of its plot to the heartwarming weirdness of friends who decipher cultural clues like conspiracy theories, what’s it mean that he’s got one of his own? Or does he? Maybe I’m reading too hard. I doubt it. But if so, I’m still right, so that’s cool.
What you want/ Sex with TV stars and Yr city is stoned/ My city’s in heat are both lyrics, one of which is delivered very much in the book, the other which is the opposite. Doesn’t matter which. Maybe James Murphy and Jonathan Lethem are the same person. Both their names start with J. James Murphy made the music for the new Noah Baumbach movie. What could be more South Brooklyn yuppie? I heard Paul Auster gave them both handjobs in the back room at Connecticut Muffin. I saw Margot at the Wedding at Brooklyn Academy of Music (:( ). Later that day I broke up with a girl. Shit is making me hate other people, not myself. Time to move to Manhattan and memorize Eat Pray Love.