Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Kanye West v. Literacy

Sometimes people write novels and they just be so wordy and so self-absorbed. I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book’s autograph. I am a proud non-reader of books. I like to get information from doing stuff like actually talking to people and living real life.
-Kanye West

Really, Kanye? Really?

To provide some context, this quote comes from an interview with Reuters at West’s signing for his new book, “Thank You and You’re Welcome.”

Yes, Kanye West is promoting his book by telling people he’s a proud non-reader. Would you buy a CD from a guy who calls himself a “proud non-musician.”

Kanye’s comments are even more grating because the man learned better from his mama. Dr. Donda West (may she rest in peace) was the chairwoman of Chicago State University’s English Department.

Yes, the English department.

Ignore for a moment that Kanye called something else “self-absorbed.” (I’d make a joke about a pot and kettle, but I don’t want to be misconstrued as racist.) Ignore for a moment that he talked about getting a book’s autograph. (In context, it’s obvious he meant "book autographed.")

But it’s frustrating to watch someone as well-recognized and intelligent as Kanye dismiss the entirety of literature. Don’t make the mistake of thinking Kanye’s an idiot. He throws more tantrums than anyone over the age of six should. But his music (especially his first two albums) were an incredible mixture of sampled soul, hip-hop bombast, slam poetry, gospel-funk and orchestral arrangement.

The man knows and loves music. He understands it. He also has an appreciation for art and fashion. (He had Takashi Murakami draw the cover art for his “Graduation” album.) This isn’t a dullard complaining about how wordy books be.

This is an intelligent man rejecting, perhaps inadvertently, part of his mother’s legacy. Kanye has always had an anti-intelligentsia attitude. (Hence, naming his debut album “College Dropout.) And he is right to tout the importance of experience. (A life lived through reading alone is a surrogate life.)

But to broadly insult reading, while pimping your own book, demonstrates an ignorance that is otherwise beneath Kanye.

-Jason Lea, JLea@News-Herald.com

P.S. How is Kanye’s book, you ask? I’ve only seen the sample pages and they seem to be filled with the same sort of self-help advice that should be obvious to anyone over the age of 15. At least, he isn’t using Autotune.


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