Saturday, July 10, 2010


Snagged this for 50p in a charity-shop a couple days ago; 50 pages in and I'm totally soaked; remembering why Nik Cohn is one of the greatest writers ever. One of my favourites, any way.

I'd f'gotten just how fucking good he was. Haven't read anything by him since I was ill, so we're going back a good decade or so. Probably The Heart of The World. Yeah, almost certainly.

Anyway, barely tapped this and already he's strolling around the Rap World of early 2000's New Orleans like it's an episode of The Wire, followed by meditations on Soulja Slim's death, pimp pianist Jelly Roll, 1930's and 1900's N. O., being on tour with The Who in '72 and a, quite frankly, jaw-dropping section on the boxer Willie Pastrano, who he hung out with in the early 80s.

Cohn's not a music-journalist, he's a...I dunno quite what he is. There's a weird mix of Nick Kent and Damon Runyon and...something else. He understands the value of Myths - especially of self-created ones - but isn't afraid to chase them down, see where they lead, even if that means popping a few bubbles along the way. He meets some mythic figures that he's created inside his own head and finds out that they're something else altogether - something more clay-like...then embraces that fact, revises what that might mean on a personal level and adjusts his own position. (He's fearful and slightly disgusted by the fact that he's a White Male, but understands it's far more scarier being Black.) He questions stuff, but still holds onto the magic that lies at the heart of any great mythology, urban or otherwise, even though its shape sometimes changes along the way.

He's not afraid to be disappointed. Or to learn.

I don't care if a lot of this stuff is even made up - and that's a helluva thing to say - but the way he writes holds true to...something. It convinces me; it unrolls basic human truths. It resonates.

And that's the mark of a great writer.

It's basically about himself, of course - he's an ex-junkie who, by his own admission has one eye on the mark - but he's a dreamer. And a good one at that. As fascinated as he is by the Dark Stuff that haunts the Inner Heart of any mythyology worth creating or exploring, he also wants things to turn out alright for everyone else, but knows that they won't. (The fact that he's written the damn thing in the first place means they ain't.) So he turns both inwards and outwards simultaneously, trying to figure out why.

You get a sense that this book is the result of much porch-slouching, failed biographies, successful articles, mythic cutting n pasting, whisky-sipping, dream-walking, Hep-C jetlag and belly-aching. A restless soul in motion.

I'm sure the rest of it won't disappoint.


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