Good blog post on the New Yorker site about Neil Young and his memoir.
I was a little surprised when Neil Young published his memoir, “Waging Heavy Peace,” because he is the only artist I have ever encountered who is proud of not reading. Reading would distract him from writing songs, he once told me, meaning interfere with whatever mechanism supplied him with his melodies and lyrics. I am not suggesting that I know better than he does what methods are appropriate for him, but I wonder what else he might have written if he had sought the company of writers such as Tolstoy or Dickens or Chekhov or Kierkegaard.
I read this and immediately thought: Yeah, and if he’d read something, perhaps the lyrics of “Cortez the Killer” would not be so annoying in the way they depict the Aztec as living in some sort of pastoral idyl when Cortez showed up (“Hate was just a legend. War was never known.”). It’s a song I would really love if it weren’t so wrongheaded.
The piece, all worth reading, closes with a nice New Yorker self-reference:
Thelonious Monk said, The man is a genius who is most himself, and Young has exemplified the remark. His thinking is restricted and sheltered, however, and his writing is aimless. Should it have been otherwise? How could I know? I am reminded of E. B. White’s telling James Thurber that if he practiced his drawing and got good at it, he’d probably just be ordinary.
Gawd does Neil look like a kid in that video of “Cortez” from Rust Never Sleeps.