So on the way home this evening, I pick up some reading material: Updike's "Rabbit Is Rich" (the series has me hooked), Rick Moody's "The Diviner" and Jonathan Lethem's collection of stories, "Men and Cartoons". I begin the first piece in the latter on the PATH train home, "The Vision", concerning the remeeting of the narrator with a childhood acquaintance who used to dress and make himself up and speak like the Marvel Comics character of the same name. On page 2, Lethem writes:
Now the Vision was a grown man in a sweatshirt moving an open Martini & Rossi carton of compact discs into the basement entrance of the next-door brownstone. I spotted Captain Beefheart, Sonny Sharrock, Eugene Chadbourne.
OK, if any direct correlation between visual art and music is iffy, it's ubdoubtably more so between music and literature. But here we have a pretty well known writer (his "Motherless Brooklyn" has been optioned for film by Edward Norton) making reference to one cult rock figure and two musicians who, what? 5% of his readership may have heard of? Now I happen to know, second hand, that it's unlikely Lethem consulted his weird-music friend for some names. Lethem knows his music fairly well and I don't doubt he's a fan of all three. But what I wouldn't give to know what percentage of his readers know to whom he's referring here. Beefheart? Sure, certainly a majority would know the name (though I wonder about it at the lower age range of the spectrum) and I imagine a healthy minority, say 25%, would count themselves as fans. But Sharrock and Chadbourne? Even citing Sharrock on his own is a little odd as his only solo albums, if I'm not mistaken, were things on Enemy and to the extent he's know at all, I think it's as a member of Last Exit, Pharoah Sanders' bands, etc. It's interesting that he'd use these three because you assume he's constructing the charater, giving his readers clues as to his make-up. How do most people read this? "Huh, one weirdo and two guys I've never heard of, probably also weird." fwiw, Moody knows his musical stuff as well.
No particular point to make with this....