S U C K

"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 15 October 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.
 
 


 
    Greil Marcus


 

Investing the phrase "egg on your face" with rich, new significance, Suck is proud to announce the recipients of its first annual Evil Genius Grants. Over the next 10 days, the Suck EGG honorees, as selected by Suck's blue ribbon panel of experts, will be profiled on this page. Included are standouts in fields as diverse as pop music and pop-music criticism, film acting and film directing, magazine punditry and television punditry. But unlike those humdrum, dime-per-dozen MacArthur Foundation "genius" grants, each Suck EGG fellowship is offered not for such narrow purposes as "rewarding outstanding achievement" or celebrating the "power and possibilities of human creativity." Nor are they extended to those whose work represents the "greatest benefit to mankind," like the recently announced Nobel Prizes.

Instead, the Suck EGGs provide an infinitely more valuable service to humanity: Namely, each fellowship is granted only on the condition that for the next calendar year, in the interests of Human Civilization, its recipients stop doing the voodoo that they do so annoyingly well. (To prevent welshing, actual prizes are not conferred until the completion of each term.) Those who aspire to the heights of EGGdom in the future should realize that, by definition, it is impossible for us to accept applications - since this is an award not for who you are, but who you will cease to be.

- Sucksters


  It might be enough just to say that Greil Marcus is responsible for unleashing Gina Arnold as a rock critic. But his verbal gymnastics - or at least step aerobics - have spawned so many imitators that he must take responsibility for the last 20 years of rock criticism. Mere public censure is probably not enough punishment for such a crime - a transgression of this magnitude deserves retribution in kind, like a lifetime subscription to Punk Planet.

It's Marcus whose inscrutable, Berkeley, California-bred theorizing created a genre of music writing that is hyperbolically personal and cutely political - and somehow still meaningless. Back in 1981, before everybody got into the act, there was something laudable in the sheer audaciousness of quoting Barthes in a Go-Gos review: "The pleasure of the Go-Gos' music is also the pleasure of people getting it right. It is as well the pleasure of responding to what Roland Barthes called 'the materiality of the body.'" Indeed, Marcus' greatest gift and most dangerous legacy is his ability to string together the phrases "history of punk rock," "pop music," "international capitalism," "revanchist politics," and "the Rolling Stone's Let It Bleed" as though the dynamism of the whole could make up for the feebleness of the parts.

And in doing so, he convinced a generation of writers that grafting theory onto an obscure single was equal to writing about music. In its mildest form, this kind of thinking produces mere unintelligibility ("to quote Marx and the Mekons quoting Marshall Berman quoting Marx ..."). At times, however, it can produce whole books, like his 1989 Harvard Press pseudo-tome, Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of Rock and Roll, which managed to stretch its associative vine-swinging over 200, tabloid-sized pages. Marcus convinced this generation further that personal revelations ("I kinda like Bruce Springsteen!"), even embarrassing ones ("Fleetwood Mac isn't so bad!"), are actually critical watersheds - or can be portrayed as such, if you couch them in metaphors about politics.

There's a direct link, in other words, from Greil Marcus to every two-bit alt.weekly blurberator in the country. Professor, we salute you!

Age: 58
Residence: Berkeley, California
Total Grant Amount: A nickle for every time Gina Arnold uses the words I, me, myself, or Nirvana.




courtesy of the Sucksters