Karela Fry

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Marketing nostalgia

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The Atlantic reviews a book:

Early in Retromania, Simon Reynolds’s recent compendious and slightly nauseating (in a good way) account of pop-cultural backward-looking, the author visits 315 Bowery—once the site of the punk club CBGB, now a John Varvatos clothing boutique. Reynolds is on the heritage trail: he’s already been to the British Music Experience in London (“giant-size cutouts of Jarvis Cocker and Dizzee Rascal”) and Cleveland’s Rock and Rock Hall of Fame and Museum, where he gazed in discomfiture upon a single severed dreadlock from the head of Bob Marley. Now he’s on the Bowery to see the reunited New York Dolls, more than three decades after their heyday, perform inside the Varvatos store. A nightmarish sense of recursion enters the narrative as he looks around at his fellow attendees and sees “faces that seemed vaguely familiar from rock documentaries.”

Did I say “backward-looking”? That’s not quite right. Here Lot’s wife joyously turns into a pillar of salt, and Orpheus is not so much peeking over his shoulder as marching, lyre adangle, right back into the underworld. Retromania is Reynolds’s term for our obsession with, or enthrallment by, the recent past, and in marshaling his materials he instances—among other retrocities—retro porn, retro ringtones, and a Pret A Manger sandwich called “Retro Prawn on Artisan.”

Retro is a product of corporations which own large parts of culture trying to sell old stuff over and over again. It is an all profit venture provided no one else can cut into the same market. This is the reason for the strange developments in copyright laws.


Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

September 24, 2011 at 4:01 am

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