Sunday, December 20, 2020

Interrupting My Train of Thought (2014)

Phil Dellio is a friend, so I better start there. He has also taken a route of self-publishing and as such been a bit of a role model for me, though he is more the age of Grant Hart and I am more the age of Elvis Costello. His '90s zine Radio On inspired me to do one of my own back then. I was thrilled to join him and Steven Rubio in 2011 for a Facebook countdown exercise of our 50 favorite movies. And this self-published collection of Phil's pieces culled from his online writing inspired me again to do something like it. Interrupting My Train of Thought is organized thematically—Phil has written about pop music, movies, baseball, American politics, the year 1972, and more. Among other things he works well within the bounds of the personal essay. His own life is suffused through everything he writes. He is never mawkish, only self-deprecating, and his insights and opinions are sharp and clear. He is soon impatient with fools, in his unassuming patient way—his day job for years was as a grade-school teacher. A lot of the pieces here came originally from postings on the ILX forum and Facebook. As he stitches the pieces together, he has a wonderfully discursive style that circles and approaches his subjects from different angles, often taking vaguely skeptical positions but capable of devotional flights, sometimes wandering well afield, but invariably pulling it together convincingly. In a way it's like a tightrope act—a literary form made out of fragments of culture and the glue of himself. At the same time, his quiet confidence makes him feel more authoritative as you go. His obsessive regard for Neil Young (and Richard Nixon, and Coppola movies) has also made him something of a useful scholar. In 2007 he whipped up a definitive and impressive catalog of Young covers by other artists to date, published in Stylus (available here). It's so straightforwardly thorough and comprehensive you can't be anything but impressed. It often feels like Phil writes with a great deal of intuition—that's a key part of the pleasure in this collection—but his instincts are true. He is no acquired taste. All you have to do is read his stuff. I encourage everyone to start immediately.

In case the library is closed due to pandemic.

1 comment:

  1. "A literary form made out of fragments of culture and the glue of himself"-- kind of like the New Journalism, or a nephew anyway, but, mercifully, not as debauched, and more fan friendly.