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The references pointing readers to my Dec. 4 review of Bruce Springsteen's Tracks-the tease on the cover and then the headline and subtitle you gave to the review-were misleading. Anybody who reads the review knows it's filled with praise, so why does the cover say, "Springsteen: Irony-free and Anemic?" Nothing in the review says anything about the album being anemic. And the snideness of the headline, "No Irony, Please, We're Bruce Fans: Springsteen's new CD set has real meaning, man," wildly misrepresents the tone and substance of my piece.
God knows thinking up pithy headlines must be tough work, but accuracy ought to come first. I wouldn't be complaining, though, if these editorial decisions didn't bring up a larger issue-which is the knee-jerk snideness that characterizes so much of the Weekly's editorial presentation. I realize that, especially in Orange County, a certain sardonicism is one of those survival mechanisms you need to protect your sensibility, if not your sanity, but when it congeals into snideness and then into a house style, it gets automatic and thoughtless and self-satisfied, and who the fuck needs that? Not the Weekly, which can be-and often is-one of the few places we can turn to around here for fresh thinking.
This cooled-out snideness-which is essentially ironic distance from any kind of commitment, political, aesthetic or emotional-has played itself out as a cultural style: it's boring, it's ineffective, and it gives off a whiff of fear (usually what it protects is a soft core of belief that's afraid to reveal itself). To tell the truth, I wish there was more of an "irony-free" stance at the Weekly, a sense of passionate commitment that tries to blow past that paralyzing cool that affects so many people who are otherwise trying to do good things in this county.
-Cornel Bonca, Costa Mesa
The editor responds: Wow, Cornel, a little humor is indicated, even (or perhaps especially) where Bruce Springsteen is concerned. First, the cover line ("Irony-free and Anemic?") was a question (not a statement) intended to, you know, play on words-like "irony" equals "iron" and "anemic" equals "iron poor." And second (though we're feeling an awful lot like Bob Hope here, explaining jokes that aren't really funny), we'd point out that your own review argues (rather well, we think) that Springsteen is remarkable for his lack of irony, for his candor and earnestness-what you called his lyric "'I had a job; I had a girl' business." So that, third, in saying something like "No Irony, Please, We're Bruce Fans," we were actually praising (not condemning) Springsteen and his fans for their commitment to the romance of the everyday. But now it seems you can't even praise Springsteen fans for their idealism because-citizens of the postmodern-they, too, figure "irony-free" could only be intended ironically. So "pardon us," we're "really sorry."
SING AROUND THE CAMPFIRE
Bob Emmers' profile of Mark Massengill is a testament to everything that is good about journalism ("Special Urban Camping Issue: How to live on the streets," Nov. 27). Not only does his reportage of Massengill's daily routine have a huge impact, but his almost-reactionary critique of journalism also tags along in a subversive way. This story needs to be told and retold until everyone hears it. It reveals to the reader what he or she has always known but never been able to express: the homeless cannot be stereotyped as strictly "lazy drifters." They are human individuals with unique histories, circumstances and motives. They cannot be lumped so easily into a simple demographic, devoid of individual characteristics.
Mr. Emmers now has a solemn responsibility: to follow up with Mark Massengill in six months, a year or sooner. I hope that, journalistic integrity preserved, Emmers will introduce this suffering human being to all of the possible means of support he has at hand: support groups for parents of murdered children and the various churches, synagogues and other non-religious groups whose mission is to help people in his situation.
I have only one criticism of Emmers' piece: the story is self-revealing and needs no editorializing from the author. When Emmers states, "I do not know if you can sell your soul, but if it is possible, someone has already done it," it risks turning Pulitzer Prize-worthy material into another undergrad creative-writing essay with unnecessary reliance on a cliché. Despite its probable truth, we as writers do not have the right to yank the reader out of the story into a movie of the week. I hope the author refines and re-examines this work and removes these "darlings." They subtract from the weight of its message and limit its audience, which is okay if you're writing for The Nation or The National Review. And nothing distances a jaded radical or a complacent moderate faster than trite phrases like "selling your soul."