Love songs for people who live in a democracy,
This review is from: Air Guitar (Paperback)
I'm not even sure how I ended up reading this collection of essays by Dave Hickey but it was a good, sort of random encounter. But let me first set things straight, Air Guitar is, officially, a collection of Essays on Art and Democracy, but I like better how Hickey himself defines his intentions: `I write love songs for people who live in a democracy. Some of them follow.' The writer goes even further in the opening essay, explaining that this is:
'An odd sort of memoir; a memoir without tears, without despair of exaltation--a memoir purged of those time-stopping exclamation points that punctuate all our lives.'
In case you are wondering--and I was wondering--what the titles mean, Hickey explains:
'People despise critics because people despise weakness, and criticism is the weakest think you can do in writing. It is the written equivalent of air guitar--flurries of silent, sympathetic gestures with nothing at their heart but the memory of the music.'
What attracted me the most about this collection were the music essays and, at the same time, I was rather concerned I wouldn't be able to go through the art pieces. What I wasn't expecting, though, was the vast range of topics Hickey explored, some among the many include: Chet Baker, the wrestler Lady Godiva, Hank Williams, Perry Mason, LSD (`it can teach you how much is literally out there'), the illusionists Siegfried and Roy, and many others.
The whole work bears proudly the sign of the south of the US, especially of Texas and Las Vegas. I guess I'm not the only one to think that art and the south don't go well together. Once again, I was very wrong. Good thing there are people like Hickey who are here to open my eyes. The image Hickey depicts of Texas is the one I remember from when I lived there, and, at the same time, it surprises me. Vegas is something I know only from the movies or from what I heard by friends who visited, but the writer goes beyond the cliché image and provides something new:
'So try to think of Vegas this way: as America's Saturnalia, as the nonstop, year-round 24-hour, American equivalent of that ancient Roman festival during which slaves took the roles of masters, only better and more glorious than that, since American slaves are less deeply affected by puritan values that their current masters--so American slaves in the role of Mediterranean masters, perhaps. Or just think of it as our province of stupid dreams, but stupid dreams that tell true stories. Because desire (as Ferenczi was always reminding Freud) is a way of telling the truth, not knowing it--and Vegas tells in ways that violate the canons and conventions of our culture's high and low with equal impunity.'