• 2006-05-11

    + 书评,《滚石》

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    http://www.blogbus.com/newswolf-logs/2444122.html

    新闻史课作业奇多,大作文小作文大测验小测试不断,期末在即,我还有一篇十五页的paper如空中楼阁一般尚无影无形琢磨不定。在哭爹叫娘骂老师冷酷无情之前,我想说一句公道话。虽然老师一会儿给我个C,一会儿给个F,害我期末成绩要抓狂,但所有的作业,只要我做了,受惠的都是我自己。

    除了读了那么多文章,这学期连厚厚的书我都整整看了两本(别笑,以前很少有看完一本书的)。上半期看的是Swanberg写的《普利策传》,辛辛苦苦看完,又写了书评,结果老师给个C+,气得我半死;下半期看的是《Rolling Stone Magazine: the Uncensored History》,讲滚石杂志的传奇故事,感觉写得挺不错。虽然纽约时报、华盛顿邮报以及Boston Globe等大报把此书都骂得狗血淋头,什么“错漏百出”啊,什么“夸张俗套”啊,什么“过分同情”啊,我却并不完全赞同。不想蚍蜉撼大树,只想说说自己的看法,即使老师会给个F。先贴这里吧,等作业发下来看老师给多少分。

    Book Review 2

    Rolling Stone gathers moss

    Not many people seem to like Jann Wenner.

    In 1967 when he was still 21, the UC Berkeley dropout founded Rolling Stone, a magazine later commonly referred to as the “Bible” or “Mecca” of pop culture, “the voice of a generation.” But the image apparently stayed only with its glorious days in the 1960s and 70s. Now, it is merely one of the slick entertainment magazines in New York, featuring nothing but the celebrities – “They’ve sold the sole,” cried Harriet Fier, a former managing editor of the magazine (pp.345).

    No wonder Robert Draper’s faithful account of the magazine’s success from a “little rock & roll newspaper from San Francisco” to a $250-million (1990 estimate) media giant in New York became an easy prey of criticism. When the book, Rolling Stone Magazine: the Uncensored History, was published in 1990, the Washington Post wrote that Draper was “far from unsympathetic” to both Wenner and his magazine. The New York Times pointed out that Draper “is guilty of some glaring errors,” and he “also makes some dubious critical judgments.”

    Saying the book is abundant with “overwriting” and “clichés,” Boston Globe dealt the hardest blow. “He cheapens the legend, turning it into a compound of hype, stereotype and melodrama that's ad copy masquerading as the truth.” As if this is not harsh enough, it added, “The louder he writes, the less there is to hear.”

    But it is not Draper’s fault. A success story without tension, a melodrama that lacks creativity – it’s easy to draw such a conclusion. But that was exactly what happened to Rolling Stone, like the clichéd stories of defiant hippies growing into wealthy and selfish yuppies, like the popular disappointment over the 198.9 TNM Square protesters who have metamorphosed into forgetful capitalists riding on China’s booming economy. The wave of revolutionary passions came and went. You either jump out of it to stay alive, or be washed away with the tide. Rolling Stone chose the first one.

    It is true that Draper was a bit over-excited when describing the altitude reached by this magazine as of its birth in late 1960s: “It thus became a generation's voice - perhaps the only trustworthy voice… From 1970 until 1977, no magazine in America was as honest or as imaginative as what Jann Wenner called his ‘little rock & roll newspaper from San Francisco.’ Greater truths were its aims.” It sounds like Time magazine or Newsweek never existed during those years, let alone the New York Times and Washington Post.

    But nobody can dispute Rolling Stone’s unique role during those turbulent years, which Draper vividly documented. While the mainstream media could not or would not touch the subjects of the counterculture, Rolling Stone stood out to reflect and interpret the alternative voices through the prism of rock & roll. As Wenner stated in the magazine’s first issue, “Rolling Stone is not just about music, but also about the things and attitudes that the music embraces.”

    Thus came not only the regular coverage of rock stars like Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Mick Jagger, but also the exposure of the Altamont concert disaster and murderer musician Charles Manson, the cover story of “American Revolution 1969” that covered the unrest on university campuses, the lambasting on Nixon’s 1972 presidential campaign, and the investigative story of the kidnapping of Patty Hearst by the Symbionese Liberation Army, the “ragtag leftist tribe.” They attacked fearlessly without avoiding taboo words like “fuck” or “God-damn;” they found their inspiration not only from rock & roll but also liquors and drugs.

    The wonders all began from a tabloid-like rock newspaper Wenner created in 1967 with only $7,500 he scraped from family and friends. A genuine fan of rock stars, he started the magazine, as he was heard saying, “so that I can meet John Lennon.” On the other hand, Draper said, half jokingly, he did so because he was a rock & roll journalist whose work no one else would publish.

    The beginning was hard. A dozen of journalists rejected from traditional media, laymen who did not know news writing at all, or even marijuana peddlers, crowded in an office, a free but awkward space on top of a press workshop flooded with chemical odors and deafening noises. What’s worse, the 40,000 copies of the inaugural issue sold only 6,000.

    But the magazine managed to survive and grow. Two years later it began to make money. Another two years later, the magazine earned $400,000. By 1989, Rolling Stone’s parent company, Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. (now Wenner Media), was worth about $250 million.

    Draper did not hesitate to point out Wenner’s genius in doing business, and most importantly, his ability to bend all his principles to achieve business successes. To start his magazine, Wenner stole his initial subscriber list from another magazine; to win instant publicity, he put a naked John Lennon and his wife Yoko on the cover of the first anniversary issue; to promote subscription, he rewarded every subscriber a roach clip (to hold marijuana joints); to ensure newsstand sales, he let the award-winning AIDS investigation make way for cover photos of Richard Gere and Don Johnson; to hook more ads, he lied about the magazine’s circulation figures and in 1980s, he no longer avoided to carry ads from liquor, tobacco and military sponsors. “Jann Wenner is a man of wealth and taste, but he is no gentleman,” Draper wrote.

    While Draper lamented the loss of “editorial integrity” after Rolling Stone moved from San Francisco to New York in 1978 to embrace the mainstream cultures, critics blasted him as being too soft to Wenner, questioning if this magazine ever had any integrity or “enduring conscience” at all. Well, Draper had got a tough question. But the answer is already available from the multiple facets of the truth he obtained by interviewing hundreds of former Rolling Stone editors, writers and office employees.

    The magazine, composed of aspiring editors and writers, did try to “save the world” sometimes when let loose. But whenever Wenner, the real boss, felt the move might hurt the magazine’s business interest, he would steer the course determinedly and announce, “Rolling Stone is mine, not yours or anyone else’s.”

    In the magazine's tenth issue, Wenner denounced the Yippies for trying to lure students and musicians to the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, where violence would surely erupt. “The Yip protest - in methods and means - is as corrupt as the political machine it hopes to disrupt,” Jann wrote. He added, “Rock and roll is the only way in which the vast but formless power of youth is structured, the only way in which it can be defined or inspected.”

    Despite his shrewdness of a businessman, Wenner definitely had a gift to discover and develop the talent of people who themselves might not have realized it. At the beginning, there were but a bunch of “acidheads, anarchists, commune dwellers, social lepers and parentless long-hairs.” But out of this mob rose stars like Hunter Thompson, who pioneered Gonzo journalism, a freestyle journalism that lacks objectivity but tells the truth in a personal way; Tom Wolfe, another giant of the New Journalism; Joe Eszterhas, now a famed screen writer who wrote Basic Instinct; and Cameron Crowe, who started to write for Rolling Stone at 15 and now is a prolific film director with hits like Almost Famous. Many other former Rolling Stone employees now occupy critical positions at Newsweek, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Vanity Fair, Playboy, Vogue and other major media organizations.

    It’s a pity that Draper mistook Harold Hayes, the legendary editor of Esquire, with that of the New York Herald Tribune (pp. 157), as pointed out by the New York Times. But this flaw won’t bury the overall shine of the book. The writing is crisp and fresh, the reading entertaining and non-fatiguing, as the story goes on smoothly like moving pictures.

    As Rolling Stone celebrated its 1000th issue last week with much fanfare, let’s pray the magazine will shrug off the moss while keeping rolling. We hope to read about not only music, but also what the music embraces.

     

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