Ender's Game and Britney Spears

News about Ender's Game: The Movie Interesting, as this book is one of the best ever in the Science Fiction genre. At least, I know for sure, it would be in my top five, and probably in my top ten favorite books I have ever read. I have probably turned ten or fifteen people onto that one book, and have never gotten a single bad response from the person. Almost everyone has gone on the read the entire series.

I got into an extended discussion about books Saturday night with a couple of friends. They were talking about the Harry Potter books, and I couldn't help but think those books are overrated. I hear people compare them to the Lord of the Rings books, and it turns my stomach. I have to fight hard to keep back the book snob in me in conversations like this. I was told that the series gets a lot better in the third book, and that the quality of her writing really improved at that point. Since I have only read the first two, I guess I need to pick up the third one and read it to really be able to take part in this discussion actively. My initial impression was that they were good guilty pleasure books, but I wouldn't put them up in the Tolkein, C.S. Lewis, L'Engle, Robert Jordan, territory. I guess, also, that I have probably read more fantasy genre stuff than the people making these claims, and so I have already formed an emotional attachment to other works. (I live here, and you are just visiting.) Finally, it's art, and in my opinion, it should come down to what you enjoy, but making absolute claims requires perspective.

The conversation continued, with one of my friends offering up Tom Clancy as a "great" author because of his attention to detail, especially in the military realm. I've read almost all of Clancy's books, but I cannot claim that he is a great author. I really enjoyed all of them, but they tend to be formulaic despite their attention to detail. I would however, buy any new book he writes. It reminded me, however, of another conversation during bloggers and beer earlier in the week where a friend claimed that the Beastie Boys section of the Kleptones night at the Hip Opera was superior to any of the Beastie Boys works because Queen's music was sonically superior to anything that the Dust Brothers may have done on Paul's Boutique. While it may be academically superior in a purely mathematical sort of way, that criteria seems, at least to me, a very narrow way of looking at music, which for me is all about the emotional reaction to the work. The innovation of Paul's Boutique paved the way for the mashup culture we are now enjoying, and that should have some value beyond the sum of it's sonic parts.

This has made me think more about books and music. The works I enjoy don't always tend to be the most popular, but I stand by them from a quality perspective. Are these two areas of art analogous? Is Britney Spears the equivalent of J.K. Rowling? I tend to believe that I look for some level of innovation in the works that I enjoy. Not necessarily from an academic perspective, but from an "original" way of thinking perspective. It's difficult for me to restrain my opinions, but they, at times, make me feel like a big snob, whether I have read more books or listened to more music or not.

You can skip to the end and leave a response.



I'm pretty sure it was me who made the Kleptones/Beastie Boys comment, it sounds like something I would say. However, I may have been ineloquent or too rambling in how I said it (for some odd reason), so here's a chance to clarify.

The Kleptones songs I'm interested in here are "Break" and "Listen."

The Kleptones' arrangement is better harmonically than the Beastie Boys' because, simply, it is harmonically more interesting. Much of The Beastie Boys' music intentionally has little or no harmonic content. This isn't a value judgment, it's just a fact about their style of music. Within the Kleptones' songs, the Beastie Boys' rhythms and many of the textures from the mix are retained, but the harmonic progressions of Queen are added. That added dimension adds interest for the listener--something extra for them to get their ears around along with the syncopation of the original material. The chord progressions seem to imprint melodic phrasing onto the rapping--as if the Kleptones are grouping the rapped sentences into more cohesive paragraphs. The long range changes in instrumental arrangement throughout the songs then give the paragraphs a dramatic framework. What had been a surreal patchwork of static sounds acquires a flow of conflict and denouement.

Now, having said that, the Beastie Boys' arrangement is better because it's more texturally varied than the Queen music. Paul's Boutique emphasizes odd juxtapositions. A Night at the Hip Hopera (oddly) smoothes many of those out and makes it more, say, Rachmaninoff than Stravinsky (I tried to come up with a writer analogy to fit in with your entry, but couldn't).

With the Kleptones' mix, much of what's good about both styles of music is combined to make something surprisingly better by eliminating many of the sources' deficiencies. Queen can be prissy and too polished; the Beastie Boys can be unstructured and too repetitive. I can't imagine that this type of constructive resonance works so well that often.

Posted by Anonymous Scott D. Strader on 9:55 PM

I love Ender's Game. Simply amazing.

I've read the Harry Potter through the fourth book. I like them ok, but I've read lots of sci fi and fantasy and Rowling's nowhere near as good, even for someone writing for children. Contrast the voluminous Harry Potter with the slim volumes of Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising sequence. Cooper's books have power and elegance and come across as such even to adults. I never read them as a kid, but my husband had and thought I would enjoy them.

I think it's good to hear different opinions, even if they seem ridiculous (I agree - Rowling isn't Tolkien), because the contrast helps you to know better what you really think about a book or a song and its relative merit in relation to another.

Posted by Blogger Lady Crumpet on 3:06 PM

Scott, in reading your response, it occurs to me that the fault may be in the listener, not in how you said what you said. Your clarification is far more narrow than how I heard what you said at Prince of Wales. My point, I guess, is that viewing art appreciation in absolutes is a dangerous slope. People with more scientific minds tend to fall into this trap, and I have to fight against it on a regular basis. I don't know whether I'm qualified to claim that one piece is harmonically more interesting than the other, I just know, when I listen to one of the thousands of CD's I own, whether it works for me or it does not. (An argument, by the way, that I have had with my music school graduate brother on many an occasion.)

Posted by Blogger Robert on 6:48 PM

I was the one speaking with Scott about the Kleptones' Beasties mix and his comment here reflects accurately the impression that I got from what he said last week. I'm more familiar with the Dust Brothers' material than the Kleptones (being a longtime hip hop head) but what I got from our conversation was that the Kleptones' approach de-emphasized musical elements the Dust Brothers emphasized (and that, typically, hip hop producers and DJs tend to emphasize). It seemed to me that Scott was explaining why the Kleptones' juxtaposition worked, and could seem harmonically more pleasing than Paul's Boutique, without stating categorically that one was better than the other. Like other comparisons I've read between 19th and 20th century classical music, and both those with jazz, contrasts of harmonic and rhythmic sophistication don't imply that one is superior to the other, except according to some arbitrary criterion.

I recall finding Scott's explanation very enlightening and similar to some things I've heard about how DJs decide what mixes will work and which won't that I hadn't thought about in relation to mash-ups before. That isn't the response I'd have had if I thought he was saying that Queen is better than the Dust Brothers.

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous on 1:08 PM

Hey, I left my name...

Posted by Anonymous Scott_G on 1:09 PM

I've just been listening to "A Night.." again and need to point out that the lyrics on "Break" and "Listen" aren't all from Paul's Boutique. In fact, only parts are from PB (Shake Your Rump, I believe); all the other stuff is from the mid 90s (Ill Communication and Hello Nasty albums) which the Dust Brothers weren't involved with. I don't have any Beasties in the office with me, otherwise I could be more specific.

Doesn't really make any difference to the larger points, though.

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous on 1:56 PM

Me again. I swear, I'm leaving my name.

Posted by Anonymous Scott_G on 1:56 PM

Hey Scott_g, Your a stupid mother F***er. STOP DOING THAT

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous on 6:59 PM

Hoy, madre adito. Beso mi tonto punta!

Posted by Anonymous Antonio on 7:02 PM

well, i would like to said that enders game is a good book even I didn`t read it yet and the song will be in the top 10 boring songs. If I was u i will never ever make that song and by the way antonio what the f**k are you talking about u son of mother ****er, at least i understanded pendejo maricon a y me saludas a tu hermana dile queesta bien buena ya que me la fukie anoche en la cama

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