April 23rd, 2014 | Print | 0 Comments
I’d heard that Toronto-based writer Carl Wilson‘s 33 1/3 book on Celine Dion‘s 1997 album Let’s Talk About Love wasn’t – like other 33 1/3 books – actually about the album itself. But I didn’t know much more than that. I also knew it was supposed to be good. I knew these two things.
The other week I was on Facebook checking out what events were going on that might get me out of my lonely apartment for the night, and was lucky to find a Facebook suggestion for the book launch of a new and expanded edition of Wilson’s book at a nearby bar. It sounded cool, so I went over, and being the sucker for books that I am, I bought it there so I could get Wilson – who was present – to sign it for me. I would probably have bought it at some point anyways.
The book addresses an issue that I’ve struggled to understand for a long time: why is it that some people like mainstream music and art, entertainment, while others can’t stand it and only enjoy weirder, more ‘underground’, respectable music and art, entertainment (which ‘mainstreamers’ likewise have no interest in)? And more specifically, how can so many millions of people absolutely adore Celine Dion‘s music while others can’t stand the site of the Quebecois songstress? Wilson’s book performs an incredibly intricate exploration of these question, examining everything academically from the angles of class, race, education, etc. and with reference to various articles, essays, and even some hardcore old-skool philosophy. Perhaps most incredibly, he comes up with a number of excellent theories to answer the questions of the book. Reading them, I felt they absolutely applied to my life, tastes, and those of my friends and family, especially the section about ‘cultural capital’.
The new expanded edition of the book also includes a number of essays kind of vibing off the thoughts and issues of Wilson’s book. I didn’t find any all that particularly incredible – and many, I thought, were stretching unnaturally to connect themselves back to Wilson’s book – but at least James Franco‘s was awesomely James Franco-y in the sense that he makes reference to a bunch of famous artist friends of his and their crazy avant garde projects. (His essay itself isn’t all that amazing.) Other famous essayists in the book include Nick Hornby, Krist Novoselic (um, of Nirvana), and Owen Pallett.
If you have the original 33 1/3 version of Wilson’s book, I don’t know if it’s really worth your time and money to get the new one for the essays, although Wilson’s afterward is pretty interesting (let’s talk about Rebecca Black…). But – if you have yet to read any version of Wilson’s book and you spend time thinking about music, or people, or Celine Dion (and why she sucks/doesn’t), it is wonderfully written and tremendously interesting and entertaining. One of the best books about music I’ve ever read.