Yes, I am much cooler than you

BY KEN WALCZAK

This semester I am reading the best book and listening to the best music. And if you’ll excuse me a moment while I engage in a bit of navel-gazing, I’ll tell you all about of them, after which you’ll close the newspaper and think to yourself, “Why Ken, I’ve never heard of any of those things you speak of! Where do you get your splendiferous ideas, so urbane yet so fetchingly inaccessible? How do you manage to be so witty and so cultured, yet so down to earth, all at the same time? How can one man refer to Kylie Minogue, Daft Punk, Scylla and Charybdis, Mudvayne, “the tasteful vocoder touch,” Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, Timbaland, Cathy Dennis, Madonna’s Mirwais collaboration and the Pet Shop Boys all in the space of one column? And is it true what they say about your penis?”

Oh, reader, you certainly are too much! But I’ll stop before this gets to Manning-y and move on to the reviews.

The book, which I’m reading in Dr. Alan Stone’s Law and Literature seminar (I may be the only 2L in the class, but I ask you, how is it possible that I am the only person to recognize this man’s genius?), is The Complete Essays of Montaigne (pronounced mon-TAHN-yuh, as I’m sure you knew), translated by Donald M. Frame and published by Stanford University Press (pronounced “STAN-ford Uni-VER-sity PRESS,” as I’m sure you knew).

Never heard of Montaigne? Neither had I, until I took this course. But now, I can’t get enough of the guy. I have conquered Book I and plan to dive headlong into Book II — despite the fact that it is beyond the scope of the syllabus, posthumously published, untranslated, even longer than the first Book, and completely uninteresting to anyone but me and someone I like to call “Mr. Happy.”

Book I, it must be said, is not revolutionary, or even completely new, or for that matter all that original, to anyone who’s read the German translation of Camus’s The Plague, Stendhal’s notebooks, Dumas’s later “opium” diaries, or Heather Has Two Mommies. But it has an unforgettable fire, a sort of achtung baby groove, that I can only call splendiferous. Splendiferous splendiferous splendiferous.

While you are reading Montaigne, you must listen to N’SYNC’s new “Girlfriend” remix, which includes the exquisite Nelly on guest vocals. The original version, I must confess, left me cold. After the soaring pop success of “Bye Bye Bye,” which bestrides the annals of late-nineties pop like a well-hung colossus, N’SYNC apparently decided to bring it down a level, moving away from the smack-alicious staccato pounding of their fiery magnum opus to what seemed little more than a booty call for a soul-patched and soul-searching Justin Timberlake. (But Timberlake remains the heart of N’SYNC. And please do not get me started on Lance Bass, whose role resembles Gleek the Space Monkey as reimagined by Alexander Nehemas or I.M. Pei.)

The Nelly remix adds what I can only describe as a “splendiferous” longing for this ever-receding “Girlfriend.” The urgent plea of the chorus — “Would you be my girl… friend?” — takes on an ever more immediate need when sung by this apostle of heartache, especially when considered in light of its obvious musical predecessors such as Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in D minor, the second movement of Beethoven’s Third Symphony, and of course “Bootylicious.”

In a word, splendiferous. But in a Foucauldian way.

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