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The Nutley Papers (1990): Billings’ Fifth Sin Phony

James Billings, The Nutley Papers: Unbelievable Correspondence from the Titans of Music (Music Associates of America, 1990)


photo credit: Music Associates of America

If you are lucky, this will be the only time you ever see this book.

Music Associates of America seems to be a viable company (as opposed to a vanity press), which makes me wonder whether Mr. Billings works for them and simply co-opted their name (rather like the pseudonymous “Sean Yeedell” did in having his employer, Max S. Hayes Vocational High School, publish his awful poetry collection Dreams, Fantasies, Love, Reality two years later). I find it hard to believe this went through any sort of vetting process. No, let me rephrase that—I can believe it was vetted for publication, as long as I can believe those who did the vetting were still in junior high school. That’s about the top level where much of the “naughtier” humor here is probably still amusing. If, on the other hand, you’ve grown out of such things, this is a chore even at a slim seventy-four pages, a bad stand-up routine that attempts to find cachet through dubious attempts (and failures) at a musical connection. If you stumble upon a copy of this at a used book sale, as I did, you’re better off fleeing the other way. *

Metatheatre (1963): The Dawning of a New Era…of Criticism

Lionel Abel, Metatheatre (Hill and Wang, 1963)
[originally posted 31Jan2000]

photo credit:

Not my favorite of the book’s covers, but the only one I could find online that doesn’t have a horrible border around it.

According to Lionel Abel, classic tragedy died with Macbeth, and a new kind of pseudo-tragedy rose with Hamlet. Since “pseudo-tragedy” is a mouthful and Abel is a contemporary of those critics whose life’s work, it would seem, was to add “meta-” to everything, Abel decided to call this new kind of drama “metatheatre.” What is metatheatre? Simply put, it’s the conversion of the tragic (anti-) hero’s firm belief in forces outside his control–the gods in Sophocles, or the Weird Sisters (Abel’s take on them: a corruption of the Three Furies, a view I suspect myself) in Macbeth–to the (anti-) hero’s less firm belief in the motives of humanity, and more importantly, the (anti-) hero’s ability to put on an act in order to deceive the other players. The layers of an onion–the actor acting a part to the audience, and acting a different part to the other actors.
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