Beginning as a rock critic explains a lot about James Wolcott’s overwrought prose—that old air guitar—which he slathers lavishly on all subjects. “Being facile is harder than it looks,” he writes. To which I would reply that finding a paragraph in his memoir free of heavy injections of false energy and sloppy phrasing isn’t any easier. Wolcott will strike off a straight arresting sentence, then follow it up with two or three clotted ones, usually larded with sexual metaphors, similes, and allusions: “I had too much altar boy in me to seize the bitch goddess of success by her ponytail and bugger the Zeitgeist with my throbbing baguette” is but one example among scores. In writing about punk rock, he alerts us that this was a time before “the gold medallions and furry testicles of disco descended” (get that metaphor to a urologist!). “A date movie for the damned, Looking for Mr. Goodbar looked as if it had been coated from floor to ceiling with contraceptive jelly.” “Niche journalism hadn’t yet whittled too many writers into specialty artists, dildos for rent.”
Such prose is beyond mere editing; it requires Drano.
Saturday, March 3, 2012
A gross miscarriage of justice
Why hasn’t James Wolcott received a Bulwer-Lytton award? I know, it’s for fiction, but surely there should be a category for non-fiction that is this bad.