# Meanderings

As part of my mix tape project, I’ve been revisiting Greil Marcus’ Stranded. It’s amazing how much reading about the music described in that book, searching for that music, and then listening to it affected my musical tastes. At some point, I’ll probably muse about the book as a whole. But for now, it’s at the start of a meandering path. Let’s see where it goes.

I’m finding it that my perspective is quite different as a fifty-plus-year-old, rather than as a teenager. I’ve been thinking, in particular, about M Mark’s essay on It’s Too Late to Stop Now [1]. At the time I read the book, I didn’t think much about Marcus inviting women to write some of the chapters. Now that I reflect upon how male-dominated the music criticism industry was at the time, I’m surprised at the number of chapters by women [2].

Anyway, it turns out that M Mark is from Iowa. Teenage Sam almost certainly skipped over that fact. Iowa was a foreign country to me: a place where Buddy Holly died and, if I recall correctly, Harlan Ellison refused to speak [3]. The act of teenage rebellion with which she opens her chapter was also much more shocking to me then than it is now.

A few months before she died at age 91, my grandmother gave me a memorable lecture on the value of disobedience. The night before her funeral, I gave my grandmother a goodbye gift. That evening her house was filled with kneeling people. I slipped away from the reverent whispers and walked the streets of Greene, Iowa; then I began to run, knocking over every garbage can in sight, creating clamor and frenzy among the neighborhood dogs.

As I teenager, I don’t think I would have ever considered running through town, knocking over garbage cans. But now that I live in a town in which some teenagers have been known to shoot out mailboxes for fun [4], it seems less rebellious than it might have. Of course, a young woman doing so is probably different, and was certainly different in those years.

In any case, re-reading Mark’s work got me to wondering what she has done since. I tried a Web search for three terms: M. Marks Village Voice Arts Editor I got nothing of real use, which surprised me. But one thing that came up was a post that linked to Greil Marcus’ Web site [5]. I searched on that site and also found nothing directly relevant.

I did, however, find myself distracted by a somewhat recent post that links to [Marcus’ review of Bob Dylan’s Triplicate].

The omission of any writers’ credits anywhere on Triplicate-on the back of the package, on the discs, in the liner booklet-can let the songs communicate as if they actually don’t have authors, as common coin that is also common property, as if they are landscape, atmosphere-and isn’t that what a song, not its composer, not its singer, but the song itself, really wants? To be the air that you breathe?

My first assumption was that this was a quotation being attributed to Bob Dylan. And my reaction to that assumption was not polite: If he’s going to disavow songwriters, it’s time to revoke his Nobel prize in literature. But I see that that quote is from Marcus, not Dylan, and it feels different coming from a critic [6] than it does from a songwriter. And then I wonder whether Marcus is also making reference to the Hollies and, if so, why?

Eventually I got back on task. I discovered that there is an Ask Greil column. And so I composed a question.

I’m rereading Stranded after many too many years away from the book. I want to thank you for it; I first read it in 1981 or so and the essays and the epilogue led me to explore a vast array of music, much of which I still love.

As a displaced east-coaster now living in Iowa, I’m wondering whatever became of M Marks. Web searches are amazingly unsuccessful and I don’t seem to find anything using the search bar on greilmarcus.net. Do you know what she’s been doing/writing since?

Before I sent the message, I realized that her name is M Mark, not M Marks. And, not so surprisingly, a search for M Mark Village Voice Arts Editor brings up a reasonable array of information. I learned that she founded the Voice Literary Supplement and that she is founding editor of PEN America [8]. She’s also an adjunct at Vassar.

I discovered an article on what she likes to be called which begins

Adjunct Associate Professor of English Marsha Mark asks you not to call her Marsha. Call her M, without the period, or even Professor Mark. But do not call her Marsha.

I find it amusing that they don’t even follow their own advice. Shouldn’t it be Adjunct Associate Professor of English M Mark asks …? As someone who cares about the representation of my own name, I feel sorry for her, particularly when I see things like her bio at Vassar in which she is referred to as both M. Mark (with the period) and M Mark (without).

Am I done? No! It’s too late to stop now [9].

My real question is what she’s writing these days and if she’s writing anything about music. Another Web search brings up a period piece quoted on eNotes.

It is clear now that the rock messiah of ’75 … embodies neither the state nor the future of rock music. But he has brains, taste, extraordinary talent; and he’s capable of making transcendent rock and roll. At its best, his new album … [Darkness on the Edge of Town could] [10] almost be called Reborn to Run. At its worst, Born to Rerun would be more like it. But there’s a lot more good than bad.

Springsteen is still the prototypical ’60s-style punk, the rebel tearing up the highways in his ’69 Chevy, the teenaged loner whose last chance for freedom is almost within his reach. But he’s not a kid anymore…. Work is on his mind, numbing jobs that grind a man down, leave him empty…

I should mention to my younger readers that Mark is riffing on [a famous 1974 statement by rock critic Jon Landau.

Last Thursday, at the Harvard Square theatre, I saw my rock’n’roll past flash before my eyes. And I saw something else: I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen. And on a night when I needed to feel young, he made me feel like I was hearing music for the very first time.

In any case, those snippets are enough that I want to read Mark’s full review article. However, I don’t really think that eNotes will provide the rest, even if I pay to subscribe [11]. Fortunately, they do provide a citation for students to copy.

Bruce Springsteen - M. Mark Contemporary Literary Criticism Ed. Sharon R. Gunton. Vol. 17. Gale Cengage 1981 eNotes.com 22 Jul, 2017 http://www.enotes.com/topics/bruce-springsteen/critical-essays/m-mark

I’m not so sure about that citation format. Is the original really called Bruce Springsteen - M. Mark? I think not. And there’s the period again. And shouldn’t they say something about reprinted in? What about the page number from the original? But now I can look for Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vol. 17.

Isn’t this just what Google books was invented for? Let’s try there. I found it [12]!. But it’s one of those books with essentially no real online access; I can’t even see the table of contents [14]. I do, however, discover that they have a section titled Bruce Springsteen, so Bruce Springsteen - M. Mark [15] might actually be appropriate.

What now? On to WorldCat. Worldcat tells me that the nearest copy is at Central. I suppose that I could ILL [16] it. But let’s check Bookfinder. New copies start at $400 and used copies start at over$20. Nope. It’s not worth it to get the citation. It’s probably not even worth an ILL. Perhaps the next time I’m in Pella, I’ll check the Central College library.

Okay, I think that’s enough for now. I enjoy meandering. I enjoy procrastination. But it’s really time to buckle down and work on my classes [18].

[1] Dear typography snobs: Yes, I think both the italics and the quotation marks are necessary. Album titles should be italicized. But the album title is, itself, a quotation.

[2] I don’t think he invited any writers of color, but I’m not sure.

[3] I have no idea where that memory comes from. I thought it was because Iowa did not ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, but a quick Web search suggests that it was ratified here in 1972 and even incorporated in the constitution.

[4] No, not all that often. But it feels like it happens a nontrivial amount of time.

[5] Every time I try to write about music, I think of how inadequate my words are to what I see Marcus do.

[6] Particularly a critic like Marcus. While I don’t think of him as a true postmodernist, he is enough of a literary theorist that I can see the invisible songwriter being tied to the death of the author. The article also makes links to folk music, which we often think of as being without songwriters [7].

[7] For example, both Dark as a Dungeon and Long Black Veil strike me as songs that are thought of as old folk tunes, but that have modern authors.

[8] That’s one of those statements that would benefit from an article. Is she a founding editor of PEN America or the founding editor of PEN America.

[9] That was among my lamest jokes of late.

[10] The seemingly misplaced bracket is theirs, not mine.

[11] Or try the free two-day subscription.

[12] That’s not the original URL I found, but it’s one that I think makes the most sense.

[14] At least not easily.

[15] Or Bruce Springsteen - M Mark.

[16] Is ILL [17] a verb? It should be. Or should that be I-LL

[17] Inter-library loan.

[18] Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful at buckling down.

Drafted 2017-07-22. Released (version 1.1) 2017-07-23.

Version 1.1 of 2017-07-22.