Remembering UGK's Pimp C, Who Died Five Years Ago Today

“I’m bad, bad, bad, bad, bad/I’m nationwide.” — ZZ Top, “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide,” 1979 Robert Johnson met the devil at the crossroads, and sold his soul so he could master blues guitar. "“We are not old men," said Keith Richards, sneering at 1967 jury. "We are not worried about petty morals.” Nas used to relax by settling down to "watch a flick, illin’/And root for the villain." The iconography of the antihero has long held a prime spot in the history of American music.

Gangsta rap has exploited this phenomenon more fully than any other genre. And no gangsta rapper ever realized the antihero iconography more fully [...]


Romance Novels, The Last Great Bastion Of Underground Writing

Romance fiction is widely reckoned to be a very low form of literature. Maybe the lowest, if we're not counting the writing at Groupon, or on Splenda packets. Romance fiction: probably the worst! An addictive, absurd, unintellectual literature, literature for nonreaders, literature for stupid people—literature for women! Books Just For Her!

Low or not, romance is by far the most popular and lucrative genre in American publishing, with over $1.35 billion in revenues estimated in 2010. That is a little less than twice the size of the mystery genre, almost exactly twice that of science fiction/fantasy, and nearly three times the size of the market for classic/literary fiction, according to [...]


The Most Flagrantly Tactless First-Rate Brooklyn Novelist

You know when you’re in a panel discussion in New York and the topic turns to gentrification, and the audience gets very quiet while everyone prays there won’t be some guy who stands up and says something excruciating? L. J. Davis was that guy.

Davis, a writer whose career was long enough that a lot of people forgot who he was for stretches along the way, died last week at 70. He wrote four novels in the '60s and '70s and, over a longer span, produced a substantial body of cranky and annoyingly accurate journalism. (A Harper’s article that essentially called the 1987 market crash won him a [...]


Why Victoria Wood Is The Funniest British Comedian You've Never Heard Of

Here’s the problem: this side of the Atlantic is unaware of Victoria Wood. Queen of observational stand-up, master of the cheerful monologue ridden with a thousand little dreads, goddess of the sketch surreal and regular, authoress of so much women-centered content that she out-Bechdels the Bechdel Test by a mile, unsentimental teller of truth in matters sexual, superb chronicler of Englishness, trail-blazer (she’d hate this title, but I don’t give a damn), tea drinker, owner of the most glorious bosom in the whole of Commonwealth.

Yet Britain’s much loved, awarded and televised, the Royal Albert Hall-selling-out, multi-talented comedic performer and writer could easily visit any North American city in [...]


The Forgotten Music Of Ronnie Lane

Even among music fans the name Ronnie Lane doesn't come up much. I'm not sure why. He was an original—"the East End urchin with the pastoral vision," as Mojo put it —and about as unlikely a rock figure as you're likely to find. The bassist and songwriter for British bands the Small Faces and the Faces, Lane gave it all up for a curious (to put it mildly) solo career: he ran away and formed a circus. But then he never had been a good fit for heady 1970s rock stardom: consider the fact that while the other members of the Faces were buying mansions and Rolls Royces, [...]


Farting Puppets: The Terrific, Bizarre World of Danish Kids' TV

A little more than two years ago, Denmark’s absurdly well-funded public-television network DR spun off some of its children’s programming and launched a separate station just for kids. The new station was named “Ramasjang,” which means something like “hullabaloo” in Danish, and it’s amazing. I can’t get enough.

Ramasjang has everything you’d want in a children’s television network. It’s got a fake news program called "Gepetto News," starring a talking purse named Babe and a whole cast of puppets that look like drug-addled Jim Henson bizarros. It’s got earnest dance lessons meant for preteens that somehow don’t make you cringe while you’re watching them. It’s got a show [...]


Anne Sofie Von Otter And The Queer Diva Worship Of The Mezzo

For about a month now I have been corresponding with a new friend in the Netherlands. There are sixty messages in the folder I named after her—the number will grow before I finish this article—and she probably has at least as many from me. In spite of all the lively conversation, I know little about her. I'm certain of her gender, and I trust that she gave me her real name, but that is about as full of a biographical sketch as I can give you. The rest is covered by impenetrable cyber mist. We don’t talk about each other. Since we discovered we share a diva assoluta, there [...]