Someday, I will catch up with this backlog of books.Bling: A Novel, Erica Kennedy
What do you call those novels where, like, thinly-veiled versions of real people do things that resemble their real lives? It's not slash. It's not a bildungsroman--that's a coming-of-age story, more or less, right? And it's not a roman a clef, right? Wait, yeah it is. I used to be more confident in my knowledge of this kind of stuff. Anyway, I'm not even sure whether Bling
is that kind of book.
I like blurbs. Have I mentioned my desire to create a social-networking-style website detailing book blurbs? This trashy, hip-hoppin', fairly well-written novel (at least by comparison to some of the others in its genre) has blurbs from Jackie Collins
, Russell Simmons
and Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez
, who wrote The Dirty Girls Social Club
. Guess which one of them calls it 'a contemporary The Great Gatsby
I'm kind of dancing around the actual book here. It's a comedy of manners, and a romance, and it's got a fairly happy ending (and an epilogue of the kind that appears in Animal House
and Fast Times at Ridgemont High
). It's no Gatsby
(on the other hand, the jacket copy compares it to Cinderella, and it's not nearly that bad, either), but it's a good time. And the chapters are named after hip-hop songs, which is about the only thing it has in common withWhere You're At: Notes From the Frontline of a Hip-Hop Planet
, Patrick Neate
A white middle-class Brit starts to write a book about his relationship with hip-hop, and the music/culture's lasting appeal for him, but instead winds up writing a kind of thoughtful travelogue about race, reinvention and a world culture that mostly hates the U.S. and mostly, to quote a song that (Parisian) DJ Cam
sampled, loves hip-hop like Madonna loves dick.
Neate visits Brooklyn, Paris, Johannesburg, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro. He goes to crappy talent shows and talks to people who say things like "It's all good. It's positivity. People come together from the community to make something positive" and "I'm going to be the DMX of Africa!" and "At the time, hip-hop was really just Michael Jackson." He does some philosophizing. He cites W.E.B. Du Bois
, Nicholas Negroponte
, Tricia Rose
and PM Dawn
. Someone calls him a ghetturista. Someone calls him a gaijin. He uses the word 'glocalized' repeatedly.
It's a serious, thoughtful book about hip-hop. It makes cogent arguments, considers the wider culture, mixes b-boys with politicians and marketing executives and mostly focuses on people you've never heard of. Books like this are far too rare (but more are getting published all the time). Neate is like the Pico Iyer
of hip-hop journalism--good stuff.