Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Ridiculous conceit: writer starts book with longest sentence in history.

Three short sentences begin The History of Rock'n'Roll in Ten Songs by Greil Marcus. The fourth sentence begins:
That basically familiar way can be summed up by scrolling through the inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, letting the names compose the history of the music ...
That sentence starts on page three and marches on relentlessly to page eight.

The writing is transcendentally dense; but highly readable if you switch off your information processing brain and turn on your stream of consciousness. Marcus admitted the book's concept was a ridiculous conceit, adding that 'trying to ascribe the entire history of a form containing hundreds of thousands of exemplars into ten is fundamentally absurd'. Tongue-in-cheek, he suggested in an interview that a contest be held to see what ten songs readers would choose (instead of his own selections), the prize being a copy of his book 'for the winner to tear up'. Eureka! A self-deprecating intellectual!

One Amazon-reviewing reader who had bought the Kindle version declared it: '... the worst book I have ever attempted to read. I deeply regret purchasing it.'


The History of Rock'n'Roll in Ten Songs by Greil Marcus
Yale, 2014

Summary: Buy the hard copy; this kind of writing doesn't work on screens. Don't ask me why, it just doesn't.


Dr. Alice said...

I once belonged to a book club and we were assigned "A Fable," by William Faulkner. He won the Nobel for it (really for "The Sound and the Fury" but they gave it to him for this). It was an allegory of WWI and it was excruciating. After a while I gave up and started looking for the longest sentence I could find; it ran a page and a half. I still haven't read anything else by Faulkner.

paul kennedy said...

Book clubs love authors like that. They get to outdo each other in abstruse conversation. I took a particularly violent James Hadley Chase to a book club meeting once. You should have seen the jaws hitting the floor.

Dr. Alice said...

Ha! If I'm ever invited to another book club I'll try Mickey Spillane or some such.