No doubt most readers will have caught up with the legal, liberal, libertarian and left blogging on Mark Steyn’s right to turn a phrase as he pleases about what pleases him not.
I don't much read Steyn’s current writings on politics. He’s not to my taste and I reckon his writing has gone downhill. I should add the usual disclaimer; as much as I disagree with what he says at times, I would defend his right to say it. At least until I was placed under a mild degree of discomfort. Say threatened with a paper cut or having to drink instant coffee.
However I’d like to praise Steyn a bit not bury him. I still enjoy re-reading Broadway Babies Say Goodnight one of the must have books if you enjoy musicals.
Some of the time Steyn misses the mark and doesn’t run a good argument but mostly this lament on the decline of a great art is a delight to read. There’s enough insight and ideas to force the reader over to the radiogram to spin a platter or two in order to check up on him, disagree or just to enjoy the music. If, like me, you have no time for the crop of Lloyd-Webbers, Cats and Phantoms you’ll enjoy his deft ranting, feel his love of musicals and not be irritated by squinting through his ideological prism.
If you can’t get the book try this for a taster: The Death of the Show Tune, A rant on Rent.
Mark also does a nice line in grumpy old men type writing about popular culture. Granted a lot of the content is a predictable but the occasional flowing paragraph makes it worthwhile. A bit like finding a tasty black olive in an otherwise flaccid 70’s cold platter.
From Twenty years ago today:
And most of us of Sir Mick Jagger’s age and younger don’t want to hear, either. To be sure, this or that gangsta rapper is a bit much, and Britney’s a sad old slapper, and Madonna’s a clapped-out provocateur, but what’s wrong with a bit of rock and roll? Nothing. Except that, when it’s ubiquitous, it’s stunting. Paul Simon and I once had a longish conversation about this and eventually he conceded that even the best rockers had nevertheless been unable to develop beyond a very basic harmonic language: There isn’t enough there to teach in a “music” course. But what else is left? The old middle-brow middle-class couples who subscribed to the symphony every season and dutifully sat there through Beethoven, Bartók, Brahms, and Bernstein are all but extinct, and pitied for their inability to cut loose and boogie in the same way we feel sorry for those trapped in a loveless marriage. What a difference it would make if grade-schoolers could know just enough of a smattering of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony to recognize the excellent joke “The Simpsons” makes of it. What an achievement it would be if every high-school could acquire a classical catalogue as rich as that used in Looney Tunes when Elmer Fudd goes hunting Daffy Duck or Bugs Bunny. Carl Stalling, who scored those cartoons, often fell back on formula: If someone was in a cave, the orchestra would play “Fingal’s Cave.” But you can’t even do that any more, because no-one gets the joke.