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Review of 'The Smith Tapes: Lost Interviews with Rock Stars & Icons 1969 - 1972'

Howard Smith's classic interviews reveal how little America has changed: a blowhard public figure running for political office without having any political experience; media culture obsessed with celebrities; talking about race relations without being able to improve race relations. Sound familiar?



 

In 1969, Norman Mailer ran for mayor of New York City. That same year, Dennis Hopper, just back from Cannes where Easy Rider was made an instant classic, compared all the photographers to “birds of prey screaming out at you.” On his way to becoming the first black mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Kenneth A. Gibson, sparring with Howard Smith over the intricacies of life in the ghetto, made one of the more important, and alarmingly still relevant, points found in this new book of collected interviews when he said, “I don’t think there’s any black person in the country that would say that they want to have equal treatment from the police department next year or next month or next week. They’d like to have it tomorrow. They would also like to have equal employment rights tomorrow. I don’t think there’s any black person in the country that is willing to wait for what he’s entitled to.” On the surface, The Smith Tapes: Lost Interviews with Rock Stars & Icons might seem like nothing more than a time capsule. What comes into cringe-worthy focus the more you read, however, is that in today’s culture of new, new, new, now, now, now these transcribed interviews highlight how little things have changed in forty years, revealing the acute political and cultural paralysis the United States has long suffered.

Smith, author of the popular Village Voice column “Scenes,” had leveraged his sober and objective detachment to become a trusted media figure among, and friend to, some of the era’s most prominent names. As the FM radio waves were emerging from their infancy, Smith landed a radio show that aired between 1969 and 1972 on WABC/WPLJ, recording hundreds of interviews. The variety of mostly counterculture guests makes for an impressionistic portrait of the tie-dye-tinted idealism of the 1960s giving way to the anxieties of the 1970s. So much was made of the transition between these two decades because by 1969 the kaleidoscopic day-glow counterculture myth, greatly instilled by the media, had lost its magical aura as the growing shadows of Vietnam, Richard Nixon, and Charles Manson blotted out idealism with the harsh truths of reality. The hippies had appropriated Martin Luther King Jr.’s declaration of sticking with love because hate is too heavy a burden to bear and blissed themselves out with a lobotomized notion of peace and love that preferred to forget about hate all together. This blind spot left the nebulous notions of the counterculture vulnerable. Rightfully, resentment also boiled over among black activists still fighting to be accepted as free and equal by white America.

Only seven of the sixty-one guests featured in this book were black—from Sly Stone to Black Panther Communications and Press Secretary Kathleen Cleaver and Howard Sheffey, chairman elect of the National Council of Police Societies and president of the NYPD’s Guardian Association. Nonetheless the subject of race was a running theme in Smith’s questions. Then, like today, when considering other national issues, like war, political tension, and economic strife, it was inevitable that all such discussions circled back to race relations in the United States because, ultimately, they are all inextricably related even if not enough people see it like that. In 1953, in his essay “Stranger in the Village” James Baldwin wrote of being a black American: “He is not a visitor to the West, but a citizen there, an American; as American as the Americans who despise him, the Americans who fear him, the Americans who love him—the Americans who became less than themselves, or rose to be greater than themselves by virtue of the fact that the challenge he represented was inescapable.”

Running for mayor, Norman Mailer campaigned on the ridiculous notion of turning all the city’s neighborhoods into autonomous townships. When Smith asked about what would happen in Harlem, Mailer casually threw out the idea, “If there’s a black New York, as well as a white New York, then policing is their affair.” Felix Cavalier from the Rascals—known for such hits as “Groovin’” and “People Got to be Free”—boasted to Smith that his band’s crossover success with black audiences had resulted in this group of white boys from New Jersey refusing to play venues that did not include a black act on the same bill: “We enjoy it more when there’s Negroes on the bill and in the audience. Right there, it’s as simple as that. We enjoy it more. We feel we’re accomplishing something. . . . we’re trying to re-create that feeling of the harmony between the races, between the music and the audience.”

Talking to gay rights activist Jim Fouratt, Smith said, “In the gay movement, I’m at a loss almost to know what the proper word is: queen, fairy, fag, homo… Will there be a point where homosexual people say fag is good?” Fouratt responded to the undeniably insulting question by citing how America didn’t know how to refer to blacks, listing off various pejoratives before concluding that black people didn’t want white people deciding what to call them and gay people didn’t want straight people deciding what to call them. There are so many lines to read between in these interviews but race is inescapable because this book is a portrait of America anticipating promised change, then and now. Unfortunately, the scenario has become something akin to Vladimir and Estragon waiting for Godot. 

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Nagrada Sedmica & Kritična masa 2019 - uži izbor

Nakon što je žiri Nagrade Sedmica & Kritična masa za mlade prozne autore bodovao priče autora iz šireg izbora Nagrade, u uži izbor ušlo je sedam autora/ica.
Pogledajte tko su sedmoro odabranih.
Sponzor Nagrade je kulturno osviješteni cafe-bar "Sedmica" (Kačićeva 7, Zagreb).

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Iva Sopka: Moje pravo, nezaljubljeno lice

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - UŽI IZBOR 2019

Iva Sopka (1987., Vrbas) objavila je više kratkih priča od kojih su najznačajnije objavljene u izboru za književnu nagradu Večernjeg lista „Ranko Marinković“ 2011. godine, Zarezovog i Algoritmovog književnog natječaja Prozak 2015. godine, nagrade „Sedmica & Kritična Masa“ 2016. i 2017. godine, natječaja za kratku priču Gradske knjižnice Samobor 2016. godine te natječaja za kratku priču 2016. godine Broda knjižare – broda kulture. Osvojila je i drugo mjesto na KSET-ovom natječaju za kratku priču 2015. godine. Trenutno živi u Belišću i radi kao knjižničarka u osnovnoj školi.

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Mira Petrović: Bye bye baby bye; Zana

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - UŽI IZBOR 2019

Mira Petrović rođena je 1989. u Splitu. Predaje engleski jezik iako bi više uživala s talijanskim. Piše prozu, ponekad odluta u poeziju. Objavila priče i pjesme na raznim portalima i u časopisima. Bila je u užem izboru za nagradu Sedmice i Kritične mase 2017. Jedna od deset finalista međunarodnog natječaja Sea of words 2016. Dobitnica Vranca – 2015. i Ulaznice 2016.

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Ivana Pintarić: Priče

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - ŠIRI IZBOR

Ivana Pintarić (1988., Zagreb) je po zanimanju edukacijski rehabilitator. Piše poeziju i kratke priče. Ulomkom iz romana „Gorimo (ali ne boli više)“ ušla je u finale izbora za nagradu "Sedmica & Kritična masa" 2015. godine. Ulazi u širi izbor nagrade "Sedmica & Kritična masa" 2017. ulomkom iz romana "Ovo nije putopis o Americi". Bila je polaznica Booksine radionice pisanja proze pod mentorstvom Zorana Ferića. Objavila je radove na kultipraktik.org i booksa.hr. Objavila je i priču u časopisu Fantom slobode. Članica je književne grupe ZLO.

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Marin Ivančić: Karijatida

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - ŠIRI IZBOR

Marin Ivančić (1991., Karlovac) diplomirani je pravnik na stručnom usavršavanju u Hrvatskoj komori ovlaštenih inženjera geodezije. Od zala birokracije dušu spašava čitanjem, županijskim nogometom, a odnedavno i pisanjem. Igra zadnjeg veznog u NK Dobra-Novigrad na Dobri, ima dobar udarac i pregled igre. Čitalački ukus mu je hipsterski eklektičan. Ovo mu je prvi objavljeni rad.

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Jelena Petković: Japan

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - ŠIRI IZBOR

Jelena Petković (1984.) diplomirala je povijest i engleski jezik i književnost na Filozofskom fakultetu u Osijeku. Živi i radi u Vukovaru.

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Luiza Bouharaoua: Zvučni zid

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - ŠIRI IZBOR

Luiza Bouharaoua (1985., Split) diplomirala je kroatistiku i anglistiku na Filozofskom fakultetu u Splitu. Radi u Skribonautima. Prevodi i piše. Prevela je roman Rachel Kushner "Bacači plamena" (Profil, 2017.). Kratke priče objavljivala je u The Split Mindu, Fantomu Slobode i na portalima Kritična masa i Nema. Priče su joj izvođene u na Trećem programu hrvatskog radija. Uvrštena je u regionalni zbornik "Izvan koridora - najbolja kratka priča" (VBZ, 2011.) i antologiju hrvatske mlade proze "Bez vrata, bez kucanja" (Sandorf, 2012.). Finalistica je natječaja Festivala europske kratke priče u 2016. i 2017. godini. Dobitnica je nagrade Ulaznica za kratku priču te nagrade Prozak za najbolji prozni rukopis autora/ica do 35 godina. U 2019. izlazi joj Prozakom nagrađeni prvijenac.

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Valerija Cerovec: Hotel Horizont (ulomak iz kratkog romana)

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - ŠIRI IZBOR

Valerija Cerovec (1993., Čakovec) je vizualna umjetnica i spisateljica. Završila je preddiplomski studij modnog dizajna na Tekstilno-tehnološkom fakultetu i studij komparativne književnosti na Filozofskom fakultetu, a diplomirala na Odsjeku za animirani film i nove medije na Akademiji likovnih umjetnosti. Dobitnica je nagrade “Franjo Marković” Filozofskog fakulteta. Sudjelovala je u nizu skupnih izložbi i jednoj samostalnoj naziva “23. rujna, dan kad se ništa naročito nije dogodilo”. Članica je HDLU-a.

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NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - ŠIRI IZBOR

Jan Bolić (1995., Rijeka) je autor koji boluje od progresivne bolesti spinalne mišićne atrofije tip 2 zbog koje ne može pomaknuti gotovo nijedan dio tijela, no i dalje, bez obzira na progresiju bolesti, uspijeva pisati s dva prsta koja još uvijek može pomaknuti i s njima stvara književna djela. Dosad je objavio dvije knjige: zbirku poezije „Trenutci“ (2016.) i zbirku poezije i proznih zapisa „Može biti lijepo“ (2017.). Jedna pjesma objavljena je i u zbirci poezije skupine autora iz cijele RH naziva „Petrinjske staze“ iz Petrinje. Povremeno objavljuje svoje radove na književnim portalima i svom Facebook profilu U trećoj knjizi odlučio se pozabaviti žanrom krimića.

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Andrea Bauk: Kult užarene krune

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - ŠIRI IZBOR

Andrea Bauk (1985., Rijeka) je završila stručni studij vinarstva u Poreču nakon kojeg je radila razne poslove. Teme njezinog pisanja su SF, međuljudski, pogotovo obiteljski odnosi i tabu teme, a njezini likovi redovito su autsajderi i mizantropi. Nekoliko njezinih priča i pjesama objavljene su u sklopu književnih natječaja.

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Luka Katančić: Papirnati poljubac

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - ŠIRI IZBOR

Luka Katančić (1996., Zagreb) student je Pravnog fakulteta u Zagrebu. 2014. i 2015. godine osvojio je treće nagrade: „Stanislav Preprek“, „Joan Flora“, „Pavle Popović“, „Janoš Siveri“, „Rade Tomić“ te drugu nagradu „Duško Trifunović“ u Novom Sadu za poeziju u kategoriji do 30 godina.

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NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - ŠIRI IZBOR

Dalen Belić rođen je 1997. godine. Živi u Pazinu, a studira engleski i njemački jezik na Filozofskom fakultetu u Rijeci. Objavljivan je u istrakonskoj zbirci Apokalipsa laži te zbirkama Priče o manjinama i Priče o Pazinu u sklopu Festivala Fantastične Književnosti. Osvojio je drugo mjesto na Riječkim perspektivama 2017. godine i prvo mjesto 2018. Jednu njegovu priču teškometalne tematike možete pročitati na portalu Perun.hr.

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