‘Look at it this way’ Lester Bangs once wrote ‘there are many here among us for whom the life force is best represented by the livid twitching of one tortured nerve or even a full-scale anxiety attack.
I do not subscribe to this point of view 100% but I understand it – have lived it.
Thus the shriek – the caterwaul- the chainsaw gnarlgnashing – the yowl and the whizz that decapitates may be reheard by the adventurous or emotionally damaged as mellifluous bursts of unarguable affirmation’.
At the risk of sounding sentimental – when I read this passage as a younger man in ‘Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung’ a 1987 collection of the late rock critic Lester Bangs’s writing – it proved truly transformative.
Everything about this paragraph — the call to action (‘Look at it this way’) – the wanton mix of high – low and seemingly made-up verbiage (‘mellifluous’ vs. ‘decapitates’ vs. ‘gnarlgnashing’) – the intentional-seeming evocation of Dylan (‘there are many here among us’) – the percentage rendered as a whole number in a way that surely flies in the face of several standardized style guides — fit into place so perfectly and thrillingly.
It was at once an affirmation of the function of critical writing and of life itself.
Lester Bangs was and remains the rarest kind of writer: one that makes you want to be him (attempting to imitate dexedrine-addled prose is basically a rite of passage for white male sweat-dappled critics) while making it seem totally OK to be yourself – however anxious and twitching and ugly and sweaty.