John Seabrook was a privileged preppy who grew up listening to folk rock in the 1970s.
He was then a social climbing straight laced journalist until the early 1990s when, suddenly, he decided he wanted to be a social climbing unlaced journalist in a non-Princeton kind of way:He yearned for a miasma of street cred. So he started listening to hip-hop and tried to keep up with the rapidly evolving electronic scene on both sides of the Atlantic.
Slang found its way into his prose.
He also started writing self-consciously about the cheapening and disappearance of American high-brow — as well as his own shameless participation in the process.
These two twin tendencies of John Seabrook are on obnoxiously full display in Nobrow, his unfortunate book length exploration into the corruption of The New Yorker under the editorship of Tina Brown and the complete collapse of journalistic standards that occurred while he was a senior staff writer there.
The book is a loosely held together collection of fluff pieces on Geffen, Lucas, MTV and other culture suckers disguised as a critical exploration of the commercialization of art and the directional flow of fin-de-siecle tastemaking.
He drops the occasional third-hand quote by Adorno and Marcuse (once wrongly attributed) and thinks that this will offer sufficient intellectual cover for his laughable and egomaniacal thoughts on music, writers and — I shit you not — his fathers upscale wardrobe.
The result is part autobiography from a boring life, part gossip about idiots, and part second rate magazine journalism from the world of Buzz. That Seabrook is up front about the new dominance of Buzz over the integrity of the written word does not exonerate him for this indulgent exercise in warm watery vomit as social critique.
The Bret Easton Ellis blurb on the jacket should have warned me, but occasionally I like to drive staples through my thumbs, too.