Sunday, May 16, 2004


One of the great/terrible things about writing a book is all the other books you wind up reading, as research and as inspiration. The nature of Running The Voodoo Down is such that I'm going to wind up with a bibliography that's heavy on books about Miles Davis, of course, but is also stuffed with books on heavy metal, Jimi Hendrix, the political and social trends of the 1970s, religion, the corporate machinations of music-biz executives, science fiction, art history, aesthetics, Afrocentrism, and damn near every other thing you can think of. Where and how it became necessary to read some of this stuff will be obvious (there are quotes in the manuscript-as-it-currently-stands from Joe Carducci, Lester Bangs, Fredric Dannen and Arthur Schopenhauer, among others), but others are gonna seem tossed in there almost at random. Trust me, they're not. It's all connected, in my head anyway. I certainly hope it'll all be connected for the reader, even if he or she hasn't read all the stuff I've had to absorb to understand the electric music of Miles Davis to my own satisfaction.

Today I bought David Toop's Ocean Of Sound, and as I'm starting to dip a toe into it (sorry) I'm a little torn between wishing I'd read it sooner and being relieved that I haven't. It already feels like one of those books that could be hugely influential on an impressionable brain, up there with Rock & The Pop Narcotic and Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas and Crosstown Traffic, and believe me, those three and lots of others have already done plenty of damage. (The two Thompsons - Hunter and Jim - are among the worst writers a young writer can read. It takes years to get them out of your system, so your own voice can grow. Believe me. They're both brilliant, but if you're just starting out, your copies of Fear And Loathing... and The Killer Inside Me should come with bookmarks that have "Don't Try This At Home" printed on them in huge red letters.)

At the same time, though, I'm getting the feeling that I'm gonna wind up disagreeing with a lot of Toop's ideas, so it's good that mine are pretty fixed already (and have been for some time). Nothing worse than finding, in the re-read/revise stage, that you've been overtaken/seduced by a theory you actually disagree with, and it's wormed its way into your text to such a degree that only hacking out 5-10 pages, and rewriting from scratch, will do the trick. It's almost as bad as re-reading a feature-length record review, the night before it's due to the editor, and realizing you let it devolve into a political screed that would embarrass a college freshman and that, once you slash out all the ridiculous, self-evident, smug anti-Bush sloganeering, you've got about three paragraphs of solid musical analysis on which to build your whole second draft.

Anyway, my point is, I'm about 10 pages away from being finished with the first draft of RTVD, and I think it may be time to stop reading potential source material. I can always go back to the bookstores once I've mailed the thing to the publisher, and get that kick in the guts that comes from opening a random book I've never heard of, seeing a paragraph or a page or a chapter that totally contradicts every idea I've spent a year and a half thinking about and hammering into shape. Right?

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