Yet history has shown that popular ideas about artistic success and failure don't always stick. For instance, Herman Melville's last three major novels—Moby-Dick; Pierre, or the Ambiguities; and The Confidence-Man—were such critical and commercial flops that Melville abandoned his literary career just two years after the publication of Confidence and took a job as a customs inspector on Wall Street, which he held until retirement age. When he died in 1891, most of his novels had been forgotten; nearly 30 years would pass before a new generation of writers proclaimed him one of the great American authors. Vincent van Gogh's artistic reputation experienced an even greater turnaround in the half century after his death.
The child and I are alone. I have not named it yet, though it will, of course, be Justine. I am neither happy nor unhappy: just poetically distrait. . . . And what of Justine? Was she trapped in a projection of a will too powerful which Alexandria threw down? And ought I to get out more?
Happily, an easier cultural analogy became available in the sentient forms of Cobbler and Gobbler, two turkeys, though that ended up a wasted opportunity. The White House put its special spin on the annual tradition of pardoning a Thanksgiving turkey by choosing two birds and then asking the country to vote (on Facebook, natch) on which would receive the official pardon—a grisly, fucked-up, almost unbelievably hilarious publicity ploy. I loved it for all its reality-TV-era possibilities. The two turkeys' differences were delineated as follows:
I wasn't a Budden fan prior to seeing him onstage—I actually ended up at the show for a school assignment. I'd been taking a sociology class on youth subcultures in my final semester at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and part of the coursework for one particular project required my peers and me to attend a few hip-hop shows, much to my delight. But due to my overly packed schedule and the difficulty that comes with trying to see live music in a Boston suburb with few public transportation options, I wound up snapping up a ticket to see Joe Budden at Cambridge's Middle East Downstairs out of academic obligation rather than interest. Fortunately I had a comrade-in-arms in Alex, who shared my lack of interest in Budden.
Did you know that we have this weekly blog series called Variations on a Theme, in which Reader writers explore a subject each week on the Bleader? Like last week's The Next Four Years Week—did you read that? Isn't it coincidental that Thanksgiving falls this week—a holiday wherein eating a turkey is a trademark—and that everyone's talking about Pete Wells reviewing a turkey, e.g., a total failure or flop? What if Reader writers spend this week writing about various instances in which they have had to deal with reviewing or encountering a turkey?
Well, they will be. Check back on the Bleader all this week for Turkey Week, this week's Variations on a Theme.