Solved: The mystery of how Detroit rapper Danny Brown lost his front tooth. And how Die Antwoord’s Ninja, from Johannesburg, lost his.
(I don’t think Ninja really lost his front teeth. If he did, I certainly hope that’s not how it happened.)
I really don’t like watching teeth get knocked out of people’s mouths. But these two videos are great anyway. The Die Antwoord one reminds me of the ending of Richard Ford’s Lay of the Land. Except it’s much better than that. I am forever a Richard Ford fan. He is my default answer to the impossible-to-answer question, “who is your favorite writer?” His short story collection Rock Springs is the book that first made me want to write myself. And The Sportswriter and Independence Day express, as well as any novels that I have ever read, the wholeness of what it feels like to go through a day seeing with human eyes, thinking with a human brain, feeling with human emotions. (Ford and Saul Bellow capture this experience most accurately for me, and Bellow I first picked up after reading an interview with Ford in which he cited Bellow as one of his favorites.) But, man, was I disappointed by Lay of the Land, and especially the ending that was so much like that Die Antwoord video. (Hard to believe, right? Lay of the Land is about an aging real estate agent in New Jersey. I was surprised myself.)
Still, I am psyched to read his new one, Canada. Reviewing it in The New Yorker a couple weeks ago (subscription required), Lorrie Moore wrote, “If one is looking for a powerful through-line of suspense and drama, one will not find it in this book: instead, one must take a more scenic and meditative trip. There are novels that are contraptions, configured like cages, traps, or fly-paper, to catch things and hold them. Canada is more contrary: searching and spliced open and self-interrupted by its short, slicing chapters, then carried along by a stream of brooding from a song and a brother with a hundred questions and only a few answers.”
I like a scenic and meditative trip. And brooding. There are few writers who can get as drunk on wordplay and rhyming as Lorrie Moore does and still be as awesome as she is. (Though, I felt similarly about her Gate at the Stairs as I did about Lay of the Land.) Her short stories are where it’s at. Like “Referential,” which she published, also in The New Yorker, the week after the review of Canada. It’s about the single mother of a teenage boy who has been institutionalized for a mental disorder and when you finish reading it you feel like you’ve just had a tooth knocked out of your mouth. But in a good way.