Sunday, August 30, 2015


In a recent exchange on the relative merits of  posthumous Jimi Hendrix albums, I took a position that maintained that the late guitarist wasn't a jazz musician and certainly not a John Coltrane in terms of technical genius. Coltrane, also a musician who died young, was a saxophonist who had gone beyond the pale in his training, practicing and experimentation. At a young age he had covered a lot of different styles, opened up jazz saxophone to worlds that are, in my view, still not fully understood or sufficiently translated. 

His posthumous records, live dates, are all essential things for our culture to return to . Hendrix was a genius-in-the-making, a natural musician who could conceptualize a larger, fuller, more textured sound, but he lacked discipline, finally, and was in such a state that the wealth of his after life releases are live dates which are out of tune and glutted with the dissonance of flubs, not experimentation. It is music that Hendrix would not have wanted released, in my view. My discursive other had the opposite view, to be sure, and I will allow him the honor of summarizing his ideas on his own dime.It's not unlike what happens when great writers have their weakest scribblings finding the light of the printed page after they've drifted into the dirt nap. 

What gets with the publication of The First Man, the posthumous novel by the brilliant Albert Camus. Critical consensus is it's the equal of his best novels, and I agree. Honesty in these publications would ease by disease with the matter, perhaps, if the emphasis discussed were more historical than aesthetic. The fact remains that there are thousands who want to get a thrill equal to the jag they felt when they read Miller, Thompson, Hemingway, et al, the first time, and it remains a good bet that readers will disguise their disappointment with posthumous efforts with a further elaboration of the mythology--all the cant, clichés and truisms that clog up a cult writer's reputation--which will make this phenomenon a permanent vex.

It would be a challenge, but I suspect I would have done as Max Brod did and published Kafka's work. Brod claims to have told his dying friend that he would not carryout the last request of publishing the manuscripts. True or not, it is known that Brod had encouraged Kafka to publish during his lifetime, to little avail .Being an editor , publisher, author in his own right, he likely couldn't stand the thought of having what he thought as a major body of writing going up in smoke, unread. It was a matter of establishing a deserved reputation for greatness for a writer who wasn't able to judge his own validity; Nabokov had a major reputation and publications at the time of his death, and was, I think, using sound judgment when he requested the last manuscript to be burned. It was a practice run, a series of notes, not a book. I think Nabokov was the best critic of his own work.
me about what's been done with the unpublished work of dead writers is the way in which they're presented; one is nearly always promised that what we have in our hands is a "lost masterpiece" . In any case, the marketing promises writing on a level of these writers’s best work, but this seldom the case. There are exceptions, though, as

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