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bear by san

March 2017



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writing gorey earbrass unspeakable horro

She's away and westward bound.

What do we mean when we say category fiction?


Watch this.

Now, watch this.

Those are superficially similar songs. By which I mean, if you wrote a synopsis of the plot of each one, it would be virtually identical.

But the John Denver song is a pretty, fatuous lie, and the Gordon Lightfoot song is the truth, even when it hurts to tell.

And that, right there?

Is the difference between subscribing to the genre conventions without questioning them, and attempting to see and describe the real object. One is facile, simple, comforting, and full of convenient lies. The other one is the result of a long, hard, cold look at all the ways you've fucked this thing up, right here.

It's worth the attempt.


Er...I hate to say it, but you've linked the same song twice--"Leavin' on a Jet Plane."
Bah, Stupid cut and paste.

Fixed now.

Um, both links are John Denver. Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket I thought you were going to get really metaphysical on us or something.
Do you know the Moxy Fruvous cover of "Early Morning Rain"? (Heck, do you know about Fruvous, period? They are awesome and I will cheerfully pimp entire live shows at people with the slightest provocation. I love tape-friendly bands.)
I've heard of them yes. Thank you!
The way that one writing teacher put it to me is the difference between sentimentality and sentiment.
That works.
I'm not sure. My first question is if John Denver meant us to believe the [what I agree are] lies in his song, or if he's painting a picture of a character. Jim Croce does the untrustworthy narrator better (at least, it's clearer what he's doing) in songs like Working at the Car Wash Blues and I'll Love You More than that Tomorrow.

Second question, though, is then how do you do a *real* message of "I love you, I don't want to leave, I'll be back as soon as I can"? Jimmy Buffet's "Come Monday" strikes me as showing a truthful narrator with a similar story. I don't think it's fair to say that only grit and misery can be truth; at least, I'm lucky enough that that hasn't been my experience. Being silly in love is as much a truth of life as being alone and disconnected.
I don't believe Denver's singing that song ironically.

I *do* believe that Mary Travers is. *g*

I agree about "Come Monday," and I add Tracy Chapman's "Promises," Jethro Tull's "Rocks on teh Road," and a million other songs. The problem with the Denver song is not that it's sincere--it's that it's *facile* and we are meant to take it as sincere.
I always want both, though.

I want to know how the woman in Leaving on a Jet Plane is tired and her boyfriend/husband telling her to "smile for me" makes her realize that she's always hated that about him, how he expects her to give that of herself, though she still loves his dumb ass.

I want the guy in Lightfoot's song to find an inexpensive cafe to sober up and wait out the rain in and happen, as these things go, to have a conversation with the cook on his break, and feel that warmth of just for an instant being recognized as a person and reflecting that recognition back at someone, seeing them warm to it as well.

...this makes me worry that my writer name is Flinches Back From Pain.
Both of the narrators in these songs are habitual cheats, which is the interesting bit.

And the guy in the John Denver song wants to be able to kiss it better and have the person he's leaving forgive him, no penalties. The guy in the Gordon Lightfoot song is paying for his choices.
I'm conflicted. The Denver song is all that.

But I don't know that the Lightfoot song is the best counterpoint. There have to be songs of redemptive affection, which aren't affected.

Maybe, though he gets grief for being more clever than deep, Jimmy Buffet, with Distantly in Love. or perhaps If the Phone Doesn't Ring it's Me.

But I think the best of the idea is Probaly Zevon, and Keep Me in Your Heart, which (if you know his life) has all of the trials of the Lightfoot, with the facility of the Denver, and the sincerity of being what he meant to say.

Mhh. I always have a few problems dealing with 'If I leave you it doesn't mean I love you any less' which, coming from a guy, hits the wrong nerves. Genre conventions, you know? Guys-leave,-the-bastards. I first heard the Denver song from Peter Paul and Mary, with Mary of course singing the main line, and somehow *that* made me feel it was about an entertainer on the road (even if there were no mentions of being on a tour of one night stands) and no, really not wanting to leave her partner. What happens when you reverse genre expectations, perhaps.
It's probable that I'm undercaffeinated, and also struggling with bad streaming on the Denver video (why have I never noticed how much John Denver looked like Kermit the Frog?)-- but I'm Missing the Point.

"Leavin' on a Jet Plane" is certainly happysing. From what I can see of the video, Denver sings it like he means every sticky phrase, which, well -- John Denver. One interpretation, by the guy who wrote the thing, yes, but the words-and-story are open to other interpretations that are either... obviously less reliable, or are out-and-out subversive.

Lightfoot also sings like he believes his material. His is grittier, and he hasn't made the mistake of writing something with so much space between the words that it can easily be revisioned.

So, Denver makes a deliberate play for the tear on the cheek, but Lightfoot gets it. Is that the point?

*goes to get coffee now -- want some?*

he rather does, doesn't he?

Yeah, you get it exactly. Denver is stickily sentimental, and Lightfoot is unstickily sorrowful.

(And yes, you can definitely sing against "Leaving on a Jet Plane," and honestly i think it's the only way to redeem it--which is a good thing to do, because it's actually a stunningly beautiful song when it's not performed as if by muppets on Xanax.)
Hee. We were listening to the Cash version of that last night, too. Was it after you went to bed?
Thanks for Gordon Lightfoot!

Also, thanks for the John Denver, because until now I've only heard The Screaming Jet's cover of Leaving on a Jet Plane, which changes the lyrics to include "already I'm so drunk I just might die," in the first verse.

Yanno, that sounds like a vast improvement.

Check out the PP&M version linked above....
Okay, part of this? I can't understand what the heck Lightfoot is singing. So, in writing terms, it doesn't matter how beautiful the prose or how deep the message, if it's not accessible to the reader, it just doesn't matter.

And I think the Denver song *is* brutally honest, in its own way. It's just honest about someone who has the emotional depth and compassion of a raisin, and is totally misunderstanding of what "love" really means. Or to use one of my fave phrases, "there's no 'there' there".

But I've read plenty of category books that had real depth and emotion, that took the hard looks into the author's soul and reflected that back onto the page. They're not as common, certainly, as the other variety. But neither are they common in single title. Just because a book is single title is no guarantee the author hasn't pulled emotional punches, or padded it with meaningless sexual encounters, or chickened out with a conservative ending that invalidates the whole point of the book.
Fair enough.

And I honestly don't think there's that much perception in the Denver song. That's a straight read on that.

The Mary Travers version, that's somebody who gets that this is pretty screwed up.
Heh. My first reaction, as I clicked the link, was "But I like 'Leaving on a Jet Plane.'" I've even cried a little to that song, though admittedly not the John Denver version, but the Mary Travers version.

But then I listened, and heard how the song reached for the predictable image, the facile cliche, the easy rhyme, the expected conclusion, every time--from being "so lonesome I could die" to the wedding ring showing up right on schedule.

While "Early Morning Rain" uses images specific to that one situation, chosen for it, all pointing toward the same tone and mood and story.

Category can be fun and comforting. But it doesn't stick to the brain. Those two clips make that pretty clear.
*g* Honestly? I like it too. It's very pretty and very simple. I can even halfways sing it, and I know all the words.

But it's consolatory. Or, you know, less kindly, it's a big fat comforting lie.

I've always loved Gordon Lightfoot's music, and now you've reminded me how much I've missed listening to him. Entirely my fault, of course. Today's a perfect day to correct that. It's foggy, cold and my coffee is down to the bitter dregs.

I forgive John Denver just about everything for "Eagle and the Hawk."
Even "Calypso?"

Actually, I loved that song when I was six. *g*
I see these songs as representing two different kinds of philanderers. The one in the Gordon Lightfoot song knows what he's doing is wrong and suffers for it (though he keeps right on philandering!). The one in the John Denver song believes his own bullshit.

So many times I've played around
I tell you now they don't mean a thing

Those lines are telling. They "don't mean a thing" to him--but he does not acknowledge that they might mean something to her. This is a self-absorbed guy who thinks nobody's feelings matter but his. I suspect he believes his own lies and has a high opinion of himself, even though he's just as big a jerk, if not bigger, than the guy in the Gordon Lightfoot song. I think both songs are presenting truth, but in the case of the John Denver song, it's unintentional, and only apparent to those who see the lies for what they are.
I wish I thought Denver was that clever.

It's not in her performance of the song at all, though. I think he honestly believed the schmoop.
I'm friending you. Hope you'll do the same.

ON the strength of what you had to say about the Lightfoot song...and the comparison. I always found that song fatuous and...well, stupid.
Hi there! And welcome.

My reading list is absolutely out of control, currently, so I'm trying to limit who I add to it, but I almost-never post flocked stuff, and everybody is welcome to hang out here and comment. *g* And I do often follow people home when they come around.

It's nice to meet you!