Simon Hattenstone interviews Lou Reed in this week’s Guardian (link below). Hattenstone goes into the article thinking of Reed as a hero, and comes out regarding him as an arrogant, uncooperative bully.
The result is an artifact that displays several competing ideas in our endlessly complicated culture.
First, it’s clear that Reed is not only uncooperative. He is refusing the conventional idea of rock journalism that supposes, according to some now ancient Romantic idea, that art is an expression of the artist’s rich and complicated personal life. According to this cultural convention, it is the journalist’s right and responsibility to search out the connection between art and life. Reed is having none of this. He will talk about the music, but not about his life. In what may or not be a punk gesture, he bullies Hattenstone everytime personal matters are asked for.
Second, Hattenstone is engaged in a Romantic gesture of his own. According to the new journalism, it is the journalist’s right and responsibility to insinuate himself into the proceedings. He too has a precious creative self, and this must be displayed in his journalism, as surely as the artist displays it in his art. He goes into the interview with his heart, and a certain celebrity adoration, on his sleeve and is wounded by Reed’s rude treatment of his “gift.”
What’s odd is that neither party seems to get what the other party is doing. Hattenstone doesn’t seem to see that Reed is insisting on by now pretty well conventionalized terms of engagement. But this makes you wonder how he can be a music critic for the Guardian. What, he’s never interviewed a punk before? (This is not to say Reed is a punk, merely that he draws from, and helped create, the same cultural well).
And it’s not clear that Reed sees, in any formal way, what Hattenstone is asking for. One way to have made this an interesting interview would have been to challenge the assumptions of the interview, instead of the questions that sprang from them. It wouldn’t have been the interview Hattenstone wanted but it would have been one he would have gladly taken. And readers would have been better served.
There are other ideas in collision here: including a spectacular one between English civility and American candor, but I leave those for other readers and writers.