Blood, Sweat, and Spit

Herewith, as promised, the winners of the Spiterature Contest and the Rock Pomposity Sweepstakes. Culturebox thanks her readers for making the decision such a difficult one. What could make her happier than to see how many Slate readers delight in the malice of others, and how eagerly they engage in it themselves?

Winning Entry, The Spiterature Contest:

Seamus Patrick writes:

I have never seen anything meaner (nor agreed with anything more) than Ezra Pound’s “take” on A. E. Housman: Mr. Housman’s MessageO woe, woe,
People are born and die,
We also shall be dead pretty soon
Therefore let us act as if we were dead already.The bird sits on the hawthorn tree
But he dies also, presently.
Some lads get hung, and some get shot.
Woeful is this human lot.
Woe! woe, etcetera….London is a woeful place,
Shropshire is much pleasanter.
Then let us smile a little space
Upon fond nature’s morbid grace,
Oh, woe, woe, woe, etcetera….

Culturebox’s note: Was Housman Pound’s mentor? Culturebox doubts it, though she doesn’t actually know. It doesn’t matter. Patrick has correctly identified a masterpiece of spiterature: literature as a projectile of spit, composed in the spirit of spite.

Winning Entry, Rock Pomposity Sweepstakes:

Wes Widmaier writes:

In the spirit of the ongoing pile-on on journalists, I have to argue that journalists are to blame for rock pomposity. Before 1966, we had a motley collection of teen magazines and fan club publications. Then, in 1966, Crawdaddy magazine came out of Boston and in 1967 Rolling Stone got its start in San Francisco. Both were run by editors (Paul Williams, Jann Wenner) who saw rock stars as modern poets and voices of their generation. While this may have been true for a good many (Beatles, Dylan), the requirements of publishing every two weeks meant others, like the Moodies, Vanilla Fudge, Jefferson Airplane (“Son of Jesus”, anyone?) had to be elevated to a similar stature. Even when they weren’t ready. Some of them recognized it: The Moodies responded with “I’m Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band”; Some didn’t: My personal favorite example of late-’60s pretension will always be Blood Sweat and Tears’ “Symphony for the Devil/Sympathy for the Devil.” Maybe we should have seen it coming: journalists destroyed rock; then they trashed the political process!

Culturebox’s note: For this journalist to reply merely for the sake of having something to publish on her daily schedule would be to invite, as Wes Widmaier so rightly warns us, pomposity. Or, as Tom Lehrer put it: If you can’t communicate, the least you can do is shut up.

Judith Shulevitz