MINE'S NOT A HIGH HORSE
Seattle’s The Stranger ran its own Elliott Smith tribute today that was also reprinted in The Portland Mercury. It’s written by Kathleen Wilson, who used to live down here and write for the Willamette Week, before moving on to better places. This town was always hostile to her, it was weird. She has a unique, indivdual style that makes you feel like you are getting to know her as a person as well as a reviewer, and it’s always lent more weight to her reviews for me, because there was the sense that you knew where she was coming from.
So, it’s no surprise that her article on Smith is much more fulfilling. It struggles to understand the man, his work, how it all relates to the music, and how it relates to Wilson not just as a fan, but a person who has met him. It’s a tack that makes sense, given the personal nature of Smith’s music. And it doesn’t reduce him to an empty icon or figurehead, or even attempt to point out where he went wrong, just that he did and that it’s sad.
It’s funny, because I imagine if someone from Willamette Week or some of the local journalists stumble on this post, they’d get all frothy. Like I said, Kathleen pisses people off. At one point, there was a group who had organized a “Fire Kathleen Wilson” campaign, who took the refuge of internet anonymity, claiming that she could hurt other writers or bands who might be involved. I ended up on their mailing list, and became a target, as well, because I had a letter published in The Stranger thanking Wilson for, coincidentally, her eulogy on Frank Sinatra. I was pretty sure that someone behind it was someone I knew, and likely worked for one of the publications I wrote for at the time, the now-defunct Anodyne. I am not sure how else I would have ended up on their radar. Plus, Anodyne loved that shit. They loved fake feuds with other papers, other journalists. It was all rather base. I think I even argued once that such things were boring. No one wants to open one newspaper and read about how another newspaper sucks. I was alone in that opinion. (I still hold it, too. I think it also applies to the comics industry, and is a lesson some publishers and creators could stand to learn.)
I entered the contest run by these dunderheads with an ironic piece that was, of course, about why Kathleen Wilson was great. I think the prize was a subscription to Mojo, if you can believe it, and I am sure that I gave them crap for holding up a classic rock mag as a bastion of journalism (though now I often read Mojo myself). These people wrote me back and told me they liked my writing, but threatened me—pleasantly—that were I to stay behind Kathleen, I would be seen as her toady and it would hurt me as a writer in Portland. I told them that was fine with me.
I even pointed out to them that they could discount my opinion as they liked—they called me a lackey or a crony or something in one of their mailings—but that was hard to support since Wilson never hired me, and hasn’t to this day. I may not be to her taste, she may not hire writers from Portland, I don’t know. It’s fine by me. I’m an editor, I respect an editor’s right to choose.
So, yep, still her crony.
Current Soundtrack: Dandy Warhols b-sides; The Shins, Chutes Too Narrow