Saturday, December 22, 2012

Lou Reed: The Biography. Victor Bockris

A few words about

Lou Reed: The Biography. Victor Bockris

A friend lent me this book. We we're listening to Reed's 'Kill Your Sons' and he told me that the song’s descriptions of electro-shock therapy were biographical. I had no idea.  Bockris begins with a vivid account of the young 16 year old Reed undergoing EST, supposedly forced on him by his family to help him deal with his sexual 'confusion' and wild mood swings. But the details behind the treatment are fuzzy.  Yet in other areas Bockris provides plenty of detail: Reed wanted to be a short story writer and a formative relationship for Lewis was with the  poet and short story writer Delmore Schwartz, whose addictions were destroying him from the inside.

There's no doubt that the great svengali of high consumerist post-modernism, Andy Warhol, was a great focal point of the 60s and 70s. Unlike the hippies, Warhol rejected all forms of romanticism. He embraced consumerism, capitalism and the corporation: celebrity was a product; identity was a product. There was no other mission than the abolition of depth and feeling--the violence of the commodity.  Warhol’s work is an odd mirror and the end of the modernist project.  Looking back on all this self-fashioning and emptiness, you have to wonder about it's culpability and self-loathing. The image of the young junkie burning out says it all.  Bockris wallows in the squalor but fails to adequately acknowledge that this was a massive reaction to American hypocrisy; the drive for a new bohemia would be own which rejected the values of the 50s. Reed's songwriting has a brutality and power that deserves more recognition.

Bockris can't get away from his repugnance of Reed. His view of Reed is so twisted that we can't even pretend that this is a balanced biography. Here's a typically outrageous passage. Not only can Bockris read Lou's mind, he's convinced that Reed is best described as a blood-thirsty monster. Talk about 'over the top':

"The struggle to conquer and control was much more important to him than the possession, just as being a voyeur was becoming more important to him than natural sex.  Basically, Lou was incapable of maintaining any kind of normal, nuturing relationship. Like a shark, he had an urge to poke at bodies until he found a live one, then devour it as ferociously and completely as he could, letting the blood run down his chin." (66)


Mariana said...

Thanks Harvey, this was an interesting read and 'svengali': a person who manipulates or exerts excessive control over another' (for those like myself unfamiliar with it) is a great word! In the Origin of svengali I misread 'hypnotist' as 'hipster' thus creating 'villainous hipster' which I hope will become a new sense of the word :-)

Apologies for tangentialism and festive wishes to you.

Harvey Molloy said...

I like the idea of a villainous hipster--I reckon there's more than a few of them out there. I love tangentialism and I invite and encourage you to come back and share your tangential peregrinations. Have a lovely new year.