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Talk to HerReview - Talk to Her
Interviews
by Kristine McKenna
Fantagraphics, 2004
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Jul 28th 2005 (Volume 9, Issue 30)

This collection of interviews, Talk to Her, is a follow up to McKenna's previous collection Book of Changes. It includes dialogs with many well-known musicians and a few other notable characters: Elvis Costello, Joe Strummer, Tom Verlaine, Chrissie Hynde, Ricki Lee Jones, Joni Mitchell, Iggy Pop, Joey Ramone, Lou Reed, John Lyden, and also Robert Altman, Eva Marie Saint, Allen Ginsberg, and Jacques Derrida. Each interview is accompanied by a drawing of the interviewee drawn by notable graphic artists, including Charles Burns, Dan Clowes, and Jeff Wong. Since each chapter is short and the interviews are easy reading, it is an excellent book to keep in the bathroom.

McKenna has published interviews in some of the main popular culture magazines, and the range of people she has interviewed is impressive. However, transcribed edited interviews lose a great deal since it is hard to get a sense of the dynamic between the two people. For each interview, McKenna writes an introduction about the context of the meeting and she often comments whether the person was easy or difficult to speak with. Elvis Costello and Lou Reed, for example, were deeply unenthusiastic conversational partners in her experience. However, it is hard for the reader to judge this for him or herself, and it is tempting to conclude that her bad-tempered subjects were merely reacting to stupid questions.

Excene Cervenka reacts graciously when asked "how many times have you been in love?" Similarly Ricki Lee Jones betrays no annoyance when asked "why do people cling to the past?" Jonathan Omer-Man is rather dismissive when posed the riddle, "does everyone have the capacity to love?" Admirably, when asked "what's the purpose of chaos?," Iggy Pop replies "Chaos is the sound of one hand clapping." When she asks of Lou Reed "is the ability to create a happy life for oneself a talent or skill one can acquire?" he snaps back "questions like that make my skin crawl." KcKenna has a love for abstract questions, and often focuses on the central life events of her interviewees. Occasionally they open up, but more often they reply with something vague and evasive. That tends to be more satisfying than when the interviewees take the questions seriously and actually give answers, because they rarely have anything interesting to say.

All this raises the question of why one would want to read interviews with artists and creative people, and the obvious answer is that one wants to know about their work and how they go about it, what they think of their peers and what are their relationships with old associates. Occasionally McKenna goes into those sorts of details, but mostly she prompts her subjects to pontificate. You have to be a real fan to want to learn how Joni Mitchell thinks how art should function in society. But I was interested to learn that Elvis does not believe in psychology and does not see any value in it.

 

Link: Publisher website http://www.fantagraphics.com/

 

2005 Christian Perring. All rights reserved. 

 

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.


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