Wednesday, June 1, 2011


I've been lately interrogating my anti-Auto-Tune stance because, I'm a little embarrassed to admit, I've watched a couple episodes of Glee and actually kind of enjoyed them or I should say found more in them to enjoy than I thought possible. I still find it too conservative for my taste, but it can be sneakily subversive. I'm finding it more interesting, and funnier, than I used to, and I don't know if it has changed or I have. Both, most likely. Anyway, because I was feeling a little warmer toward the show, I began to wonder if Auto-Tune as a tool to create a certain kind of shiny pop performance was possibly not so evil.

And then I remembered this.

And this:

These vocal performances are processed to be sure, but with analog technology that can add to but can't fundamentally alter the voice in the way that Auto-Tune does. These are perfect pop vocal performances, flawless, shiny as glass. Yet they retain the essential emotional quality of human beings singing, a quality that is erased by the overuse of Auto-Tune. Barry and Frida actually sang like that into a microphone and they brought yearning and heartbreak to every perfect note.

Call me an old curmudgeon, but something important is lost when you create that perfect pop vocal in a computer instead of in the human heart and throat. Something you can actually hear and measure. Something good. It's like when people look at you with a forced, sad smile and tell you that Stouffer's frozen lasagna is "actually very tasty." Well, okay. Keep telling yourself that.

Jane Austen't.

I think I just don't get Jane Austen. Whenever I encounter passages from her books quoted in other books or articles, or when writers I love write about her, I think, "Wow, that's so good I need to read some Jane Austen." But then I do and I always end up feeling somehow unsatisfied.

I read Pride and Prejudice, and I think Sense and Sensibility though I'm not sure, and I'm struggling through Persuasion right now. It's not a long book and I only have about 30 pages left but I am finding it such a chore, I don't even think I'll finish it. Seriously it's so boring I can hardly make myself sit down and finish it. The story is dull. None of the characters are sympathetic. They're either silly and vain (and we're supposed to not like them) or they're tedious and judgmental and just annoying.

All the things people say Jane Austin is so amazing at: the social observation, the critique of manners, etc., George Eliot does with as much bite and humor as Austin -- and, I would argue, more subtlety -- and her books have passion and warmth, sorrow and beauty. What is it I'm not getting?