17 October 2007
RIFF MARKET CONTINUES TO PRESENT: ZACHARY KANIN WEEK AT RIFF MARKET
ZACH KANIN WEEK: DAY THREE
THE MOMENT YOU'VE BEEN WAITING FOR
EXCLUSIVE RIFF MARKET BOOK REVIEW OF ZACH KANIN'S "THE SHORT BOOK"
I haven't read this book. Zach and I sat at Eatery a few weeks back, the book was there on the table, I said, "Can I borrow this book so I can write a review of it on Riff Market, as part of the Zach Kanin Week on Riff Market we've been talking about for a while now, this meal being the culmination of years of planning," and he told me, in no uncertain terms, that I could not borrow this book, that the publishers had only given him a few copies, that if I were to buy the book, say, on Amazon.com, I could singlehandedly bump his Amazon ratings by the hundred-thousands, that I kinda sorta had a lot of nerve asking him to borrow the book when so much was at stake. So I haven't read the book, and am still debating whether I will ever make plans to, whenever the 300 copies I ordered finally arrive.
In the meantime there is plenty to talk about, such as this exclusive excerpt. There hasn't been much critical thought put (to my knowledge) into how a musician's height affects his ability to make music, the kind of music he aspires to, the instruments he is capable of playing at (so to speak) high levels of technique. Prince, Thom Yorke, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Dolly Parton--the bum's question is what do these short musicians have in common. Can we characterize their music, as we can them, as short. I don't think we can! I just don't think it's possible. Or more bluntly: How many of these short musicians, from a legal standpoint, have seen or wanted to see the secret pair of "short breasts" Dolly Parton keeps flapped under her regular ones? None! My guess is Parton herself has no idea about the breasts.
One critique of the book I have, just on principle, is the title. The scenario I'm imagining goes like this. I'm short. I go into the Barnes and Noble at Astor, downstairs into the reference section, then maybe go upstairs for a bit and rip off the protective plastic around the expensive magazines like I'm the fucking Peter Pan of the publishing industry. Then I go downstairs to the line where the checkout is, then wait in line behind some guido-looking guy about to buy that Clublife book by Rob the Bouncer. Eventually I get to the cashier, who is beautiful in a Barnes and Noble sort of way, and I'm holding a book called The Short Book. Keep in mind I'm short. She takes the book and smiles at me, maybe even winks, like she gets it, like don't worry your secret's safe with me. "It's for a friend," I say. "I mean Zach's my friend. I'm actually totally comfortable with my physical appearance." She thanks for me for shopping at Barnes and Noble, and I'm on my way, and you'll notice that in this entire transaction she didn't even think to ask me if I wanted a Barnes and Noble membership.
Zach is a brilliant writer, relentlessly funny here mostly because the book's premise is not height but insecurity, and how we deal with insecurity. Not to say there's a dark side to this book in the way there was in Simon's, , but both writers operate with implicit gravitas for sure, Simon's based in the tragedy of the weak, Zach's in the concept of physical grossness. You look at Zach's art or read this book and the driving belief is not that short people aren't gross, but that ALL people are gross. That we, short fat tall skinny beautiful ugly, are all just as unsightly as the cockroaches we stomp on indiscriminately, the rats we're convinced are genetically modified to terrorize us, the skunks we used to put into brown paper bags and light on fire when we were young. You're not going to hear that anywhere I don't think--you shouldn't really; the book is basically a super-funny bathroom-type jokebook masquerading as a reference guide--but if you're wondering why Zach's jokes hit and yours don't, it might have to do with the size of his ticker, smaller physically, a bit weird looking, but infinitely kinder.