Flashbacks: Reviewing R. Kelly after the arrest, “the writer’s writer’s writer,” and a city with amnesia
THE ICK FACTOR
5 years ago
March 21, 2003| While listening to R. Kelly’s new album, Chocolate Factory, critic Jon Caramanica couldn’t get the singer’s recent transgression out of his mind.
“On ‘Ignition Remix,’ for example, there’s some awkward business about spewing ‘venom’ into a lady’s ‘trunk.’ And on ‘You Made Me Love You,’...he leers, ‘You must be one of them top models/Body curved like a pop bottle/Got me sweating like a boxer, baby.’ Kelly has always had a gift for injecting the sacred with the profane, and his predilection for young women has been rumored for years. But his arrest makes listening to a track like the operatic ‘Showdown,’ the latest installment of his mano-a-mano song cycle with Ronald Isley, uncomfortable. The saddest part is that nobody else in contemporary pop has his talent when it comes to recording smooth, sensual slowdances and steamy R&B workouts. Chocolate Factory isn’t a bad album, it’s just a difficult one to listen to.” Read full article
18 years ago
March 24, 1989| Mark Jurkowitz gave a picture of Roger Clemens before he’s accused of anything worse than egocentrism and stiffing little kids.
“About an hour after the Texas Rangers beat the Red Sox...in an exhibition game...young autograph hounds are waiting anxiously near the clubhouse. The big news is that Roger Clemens — he of the Cy Young Awards...—has promised he will sign their baseballs on his way out of the ballpark.
“As Clemens’s car comes into view, the youngsters stream into its path...The problem is that Clemens doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Nope; in fact, he’s cruising right by the pack...like a fullback blasting through a narrow opening in the offensive line...[I]t’s obvious that Clemens has as much intention of stopping as he has of grooving a fastball to Jose Canseco in the bottom of the ninth of a 1-1 game.
“Roger Clemens. If there’s one ballplayer who seems to epitomize...what many people perceive as the egocentric and selfish new breed of ballplayer, it is the Rocket in ’89 — a somber, hulking presence around the clubhouse, a guy who would stiff a group of kids who have waited for him after the ballgame, and in this exhibition season, a ballplayer who has enveloped himself in the cone of silence by refusing to talk to the press.
“And to Clemens’s way of thinking, the media are the culprits.”
POETRY IN MOTION
25 years ago
March 22, 1983| Robert Polito rhapsodized on the merits of poet Elizabeth Bishop’s body of work.
“Robert Lowell told an interviewer that ‘he enjoyed her poems more than anybody else’s.’ John Ashbery termed her ‘the writer’s writer’s writer.’ To James Merrill she was ‘our greatest national treasure’...
“The Complete Poems 1927-1979...gathers in one volume the life work of Elizabeth Bishop, the poet most admired and celebrated by our other most admired and celebrated poets. ...
“That Bishop is less well known than some of her admirers is a paradox that floats on a short string above the qualities that make her work so distinctive. Her poems resist even the most supple efforts to categorize them. Despite its slenderness — The Complete Poems 1927-1979 comprises 115 original performances — the identifying mark of this book is its variety...Bishop’s writings ‘dramatize the mind in action rather than in repose,’ as she approvingly described the procedures of some 17th-century sermons. And like her ‘Gentleman of Shalott’ she ‘loves/that sense of constant re-adjustment.’ As a result, Bishop has been difficult to pin down in anthologies. Instead of a handful of agreed-upon, representative, important pieces, what we discover here is almost unequaled range and diversity. In the writing of no other American poet...is there greater amplitude of feeling, tone and attitude, and less repetition.”
SEE NO EVIL
35 years ago
March 20, 1973| Staying for some time overseas in Vienna, Austria, writer Sylvia Rothchild said that the city “suffers from amnesia.”
“Strange to come from a post-affluent society to a pre-affluent one, from post-Freud to pre-Freud as well as pre-youth culture, counter culture, women’s liberation, all the rebellions of the sixties and seventies! Especially bizarre since I always felt that the counter culture...was a response to what went on in Austria and Germany. To be sick of the Vietnam war was not only to be horrified at killing innocent people, but also to be terrified that we were not really different from Nazis. Being at the scene of the old crimes, however only added to the confusion. Vienna suffers from amnesia. It’s a city full of statues and memorials, obsessed with history as architecture and operetta, opposed to dwelling on any ‘unpleasantness.’ No demonstrations, no strikes, no controversies in the newspapers...”