Thursday 30 November 2023

Practical Criticism the Shane MacGowan Way

 Reading an obituary of the Pogues front man Shane MacGowan, who despite everything made it to the age of 65, I learned much of interest – English prep school, followed by Westminster! Who knew? – but what most struck me was the story, told by a former girlfriend, that Shane lost several of his front teeth attempting to eat The Beach Boys Greatest Hits, Volume 3. I'd like to think this was an act of truly practical criticism – that particular LP is not regarded as much of an addition to the Beach Boys oeuvre, and the record company only released it to make up for disappointing sales of the previous album, Friends. However, MacGowan was under the influence of LSD at the time, and that might be sufficient explanation. 
 Eating as practical criticism, though, surely has some possibilities – eating books (or at least taking a few bites) being the obvious example. I can't find, or call to mind, a single case of this happening (anyone?), but I rather wish I'd thought of it in my student days, when it might have enlivened a dreary tutorial. In my library days, I did have a colleague who in meetings had a habit of munching on the minutes (before his leveraged retirement). There are a couple of cases of bibliophagy in the Bible – one, involving a scroll rather than a codex, is in Ezekiel, the other in Revelations, where an angel tells John to eat a 'little book', assuring him that 'it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey' (and so it proved).
  Anyway, I'm looking forward to hearing Fairy Tale of New York – almost the only secular Xmas song that doesn't set my teeth on edge – even more often than usual this Christmas. 

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