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Author Topic: Memphis Minnie Book  (Read 1759 times)

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Offline Vidal

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Memphis Minnie Book
« on: August 08, 2021, 05:42:44 AM »
Woman With Guitar by Paul and Beth Garon. This was a Xmas present but just got round to reading it. Massively disappointing. Just about got through the first 7 chapters (you can get most of what is said, and in a better format, in the Discography at the back). I persevered as we were promised that 8-20 would look at "conflicting forces of gender, race and class" in MM's work. A tall order but one, if handled sensitively, that would surely be rewarding.
Start of Ch 8, I was crushed:

"In our discussion of Minnie's songs, we have arranged the songs by analogic propensity, or to borrow an expression of Goethe's, "elective affinities", an arrangement whereby sympathies orchestrate the structure and content of an organizational method and thus bring to the surface new and often wonderful relationships".

The authors, in their bid to win the annual Bad Writing Contest, and to make us all feel inadequate and intimidated, blundered on:

"Our aim is to reveal the unheard side of Minnie's entire realm so that we might recover the power of her achievement in a way that addresses the urgent needs of humankind today".

A few pages on, in an attempt to make lucid and shine some light on this obfuscation, we are put in the capable hands of the "Senegalese surrealist Cheikh Tidane Sylla".

Bloody Hell! I urge anyone and everybody to go on YouTube and LISTEN to Memphis Minnie and give this pseudo-intellectual garbage a wide berth.


Offline dj

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Re: Memphis Minnie Book
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2021, 10:36:16 AM »
I enjoyed the biographical part of the book and the photos.  Chapter 8, the chapter on their methodology for lyrical interpretation, reads like a bad parody of academic writing, though it's obviously meant seriously.  The chapters on the lyrics aren't so bad, though sometimes they just prove that you can read anything you want into a lyric.  I have to say that I think the chapters on the lyrics were meant for a non-specialist audience, not for Weenies - most of us can interpret them just fine on our own. 
« Last Edit: August 09, 2021, 04:38:01 PM by dj »

Offline GhostRider

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Re: Memphis Minnie Book
« Reply #2 on: August 09, 2021, 02:04:23 PM »
Vidal:

I had the misfortune to read this book many years ago and have regretted it ever since. Absolutely  awful.

Alex

Offline snaps

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Re: Memphis Minnie Book
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2021, 06:01:39 PM »
Very poorly written book. I tried to read it a couple of times and it just ended in frustration.

Offline Tim Connor

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Re: Memphis Minnie Book
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2022, 10:08:14 PM »
I liked the biographical part (my favorite thing, however, was the photos of Minnie's set lists--I wish I could hear her sing "How High the Moon"). The interpretive part (Chapter 8 and following) reads like a parody of a doctoral dissertation on blues as postmodern poetry (having written a dissertation myself, I am aware of how easy it is to forget that normal people don't give a $#!+).

Offline Stuart

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Re: Memphis Minnie Book
« Reply #5 on: March 02, 2022, 10:35:14 AM »
Yep, disappointing for sure. I don't know how many times I have read a book, article, etc., and then thought to myself, "Where were the author's friends, teachers or the guiding editorial hand?"

Offline Suzy T

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Re: Memphis Minnie Book
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2022, 12:13:14 AM »
I sure wish that Del Rey would write a Memphis Minnie biography.  The Garons' one left so many questions not only unanswered but also unexamined. And I hated the deconstruction of the songs. I know they were well-intentioned and it's great that someone wrote a book about her, but the world could use another biography of MM.

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: Memphis Minnie Book
« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2022, 05:35:11 AM »
I sure wish that Del Rey would write a Memphis Minnie biography.  ... but the world could use another biography of MM.

I'll second that!
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Offline Stuart

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Re: Memphis Minnie Book
« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2022, 12:30:45 PM »
I agree, Suzy. At this point she would be relying almost solely on secondary sources, but gathering up the materials and info, sorting through it and writing a solid book should definitely be doable. The obvious problem of course is that "Woman With Guitar" exists and being careful about anything that might be viewed as plagiarism is something she'd have to stay on top of. But much, if not most, of the info is readily available and there are standard ways to cite previous publications.

Offline lindy

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Re: Memphis Minnie Book
« Reply #9 on: April 25, 2022, 01:02:59 PM »
Thinking out loud here . . .

Rather than trying to write in the standard format of biographies, and as a way to avoid dealing with even hints of plagiarism, a contemporary book on the life and music of MM might follow the format that JohnM used for his Lemon Jefferson book -- a combination of transcriptions, biographical info, some analysis of the music, and an essay or two by someone(s) other than the author.

Of course, I'm picturing Del as making a major contribution, if not actually taking on the author's role.

Lindy

Offline eric

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Re: Memphis Minnie Book
« Reply #10 on: April 25, 2022, 01:12:40 PM »
That's a great idea, Lindy. Not that I'm trying pile more work on JohnM or anything...All kidding aside, I would think there be some demand for book like that, or maybe a compilation of blues women.
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Offline waxwing

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Re: Memphis Minnie Book
« Reply #11 on: April 25, 2022, 06:54:34 PM »
I think in Del's situation, something along the lines of "Chasing Gus's Ghost", which was sort of a documentary of the filmmaker's discovery of Gus Cannon's music while making the film, would be an interesting read. Perhaps the story of Del's personal journey through MM's music, interspersed with her take on what is known of MMs life. I'm remembering the story she tells of realizing that there were two guitars on MMs cuts, and asking Johnm why he never told her.

Wax
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Offline Rivers

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Re: Memphis Minnie Book
« Reply #12 on: August 14, 2022, 11:04:55 PM »
The Garons' one left so many questions not only unanswered but also unexamined. And I hated the deconstruction of the songs. I know they were well-intentioned and it's great that someone wrote a book about her, but the world could use another biography of MM.

Right on.

Offline Tim Connor

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Re: Memphis Minnie Book
« Reply #13 on: August 22, 2022, 09:09:51 PM »
I agree, Suzy. At this point she would be relying almost solely on secondary sources, but gathering up the materials and info, sorting through it and writing a solid book should definitely be doable. The obvious problem of course is that "Woman With Guitar" exists and being careful about anything that might be viewed as plagiarism is something she'd have to stay on top of. But much, if not most, of the info is readily available and there are standard ways to cite previous publications.

That shouldn't be a problem as long as you don't actually copy sentences without appropriate citations. Biographers always refer back to previous biographies (they have to, actually, if it's responsible scholarship). There are at least three biographies of Big Bill Broonzy (well, one should be a "biography" with scare quotes) and god knows how many of Robert Johnson. Never mind all the biographies of Lincoln, Churchill, etc. As long as you don't copy actual language as if you made it up, plagiarism isn't an issue.

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