I have never met Andy Greenwald in person. I've never talked to him via e-mail him nor have I ever interviewed him on the phone. All that I know of him is through a few online interviews with him, some of his writing in Spin, and his book, Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers and Emo. As vocal as I've been about why I don't like his book, let the record be known that I don't have a beef with this guy personally. However, there are a few things about his book I would like to discuss that constantly anger me.
As the Wee Demon put it best in her article on Post: The definitive work on the music thus far is a book called Nothing Feels Good by Spin magazine contributing writer Andy Greenwald, an admitted outsider in the scene. While it's not his only reason--or even his main one--for writing Post, Grubbs thinks Greenwald has it all wrong.
I've said before that Nothing Feels Good was the final straw of many final straws. As the article accurately states, I had the idea for Post before I owned/attempted to read Nothing Feels Good the whole way through. Before I came up with the idea, I had read some excerpts that were posted on the Blackball Records message board and had skimmed through a copy at the Virgin Megastore in Grapevine. When I bought a copy for myself (and a few days into writing/researching), I tried to read it. I had to stop about twenty pages in because it made me so mad. I don't know if it was the writing style or how this guy perceived the culture of emo that upset me more, but I couldn't read another page.
I have since tried to read more pages in the book, but I still can't read it the whole way through. There are so many spelling/factual errors that it's not funny (apparently those were his editor's fault) and it's from the angle of an outsider observer looking in at the medium. Greenwald has made no bones about being an outsider to this world, yet people think he is an insider. Without turning this into a pissing contest, I feel I have had enough experience as an insider to warrant my views be documented. I hope people that have been involved much longer than I have will write a book too.
I believe Nothing Feels Good is accurate in portraying the ways that younger people react to the music, embarrassing warts and all. However, Greenwald's overlooking a large cross-section of people that got into the music not just for the angular rhythms and heart-on-sleeve lyrics. These people found a deep sense of philosophy and ways of living their lives through the stories of these bands and labels. There is a long history behind post-hardcore before it became a mainstream commodity called emo; a history that Greenwald spends only about a quarter of his book on.
Along with my attempts to read Nothing Feels Good, bigger motivations came from books that I really like (especially Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life, Chuck Klosterman's Fargo Rock City, Greg Kot's Wilco: Learning How to Die) and my experiences in college with being a fan of post-hardcore/emo in a hipster world. Translating my experiences with how the music and philosophy affect my life now (along with the guidance of the previously mentioned books as inspirations) has been the goals ever since March 1st, 2004.
Ever since then, I've checked out Greenwald's website from time to time. He has a second book, a fictional novel, Miss Misery, out now and he recently wrapped up a book signing tour for it. Out of pure curiosity, I looked at his contact info and felt there was a large distance between author and reader because of middlemen. Publicists and agents are a way of being represented, but in my current mindset, I don't see a need for them. I know middlemen are hired to look out for their clients, but they create distance between human beings.
My experiences with middlemen (particularly managers and publicists) haven't been the most enjoyable aspects of tracking down people. I know people's time is precious and they can't sit around and do interviews all day, but still, why are some people seen as untouchable while others aren't? I know these people are trying to weed out charlatans and crooks, but it feels like a zero tolerance way of doing business. This isn't community to me. This isn't punk rock to me. I'm often reminded of a Hot Water Music lyric when I think about this: "'Cause it's business/not people."
Tying this all together, I think it's important to have different views on a similar subject. I don't believe there is one definitive history on rock music, so the more viewpoints the better. Nothing Feels Good and other mainstream views may rub me the wrong way, but they don't mean I should sit back, retire and bitch about the good ol' days. I have a lot ahead of me and I look forward to the ride to come.