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Read Zeppelin: Davis Does Zoso

Erik Davis: hermenaut; bearded Led Zep exegete.
Photo: Mindstates II website.

In Led Zeppelin IV (33 1/3/ Continuum International Publishing Group), Erik Davis manages the neat trick of making Robert Plant’s cosmic-dirthead lyrics sound like outtakes from The Mabinogion. (This, remember, is the man whose idea of rock poesy is “I got my flower/ I got my power/ I got a woman who knows” (“Dancing Days,” Houses of the Holy).)

But seriously: Davis, author of Techgnosis (the definitive study of man, myth, and magic in the Digital Age), is one of the most consistently invigorating thinkers trespassing in that No Man’s Land between the academy and the glossies, and the most engaging aspect of this irresistibly readable book is the sheer delight he so obviously takes in overreading this stuff. It’s as if he went through some hermeneutic wormhole and emerged in a parallel universe where Zep’s legendary fourth album is infinitely dense with significance—a textual black hole that sucks all meaning into its dark maw. (The jacket copy on the back cover calls Zoso “an esoteric megahit, a blockbuster arcanum…a thing from beyond, charged with manna.”)

Part of Continuum’s 33 1/3 series of small, Nintendo cartridge-thick books that pair landmark records and their most devoted writer-fans, Led Zeppelin IV deconstructs the Zoso album with a scanning, tunneling attention to microscopic detail that would be terrifying, were it not so entertaining. Davis reads the record’s interrelated songs as a mystical allegory, “a single journey through a changing landscape of moonlight hedgerows and trembling mountains; a movement unified, at the very least, by Plant’s anxious need to move.” The author follows the hyperlinks of his sprawling erudition and far-flung interests wherever they lead him, riffing on rock history, fan consciousness, a 632-page crackpot exegesis by a Zep fan-turned-born-again-Christian (“without a doubt the most exhaustive occult reading of Zep yet attempted”), the disembodiment of music in the age of mechanical reproduction, the creepily necromantic nature of dead voices resurrected by the phonograph needle, the 19th century occultist Austin Osman Spare (whose concept of the sigil unlocks the deeper meanings of those inscrutable Zoso glyphs), and the terrifying true nature (now it can be told!) of the “five seconds of pulsating electronic spooge” that opens “Black Dog.” In wry, courageously candid asides, he uses unapologetic reminiscences from a ’70s adolescence spent in Southern California, “surrounded by the spent fuel rockets of the spiritual counterculture,” to restore the record’s lost historical context, and what it meant to teenage fans like Davis, there and then.

From the lyrics and music to the cover art to the moldering 18th century house where the band recorded Zoso to the Satanic verses allegedly lurking in the music to the cryptic messages scrawled in the blank vinyl near the spindle hole (did I mention the 19th century magus Eliphas Levi, and the historical roots of “When the Levee Breaks”?), Davis deconstructs Zep’s fourth at a deliriously obsessive level, reminding us that “fan” is, after all, short for “fanatic.”

Mark Dery: I’m interested in this notion of overinterpretation as a conscious critical strategy (if that, in fact, is what you’re up to). When does textual exegesis shade into self-parody? In other words, when do the obsessive attentions of fanboy critics, excavating Deep Meanings from a hunk of disposable pop culture, start to look bathetic, as a result of the contrast between grand ambition and the silliness of the object under scrutiny? Don’t get me wrong: By the book’s end, I was more or less persuaded by your argument for Zoso as a mythic quest, rich in intertextual connections to medieval allegory, Celtic myth, Page’s Crowleyite magick, and Plant’s pre-Raphaelite fantasies of medieval idylls, equal parts Tolkien and back-to-nature hippie utopianism. But even if we grant the Barthesian premise that meaning is largely in the mind of the beholder, a product of our engagement with the text, is there a point at which a text is simply so inadequate to a critic’s claims for it that it collapses under the weight of those claims? I mean, Thick as a Brick isn’t Finnegan’s Wake. Or is it?

Erik Davis: Let me answer your question in a couple of parts, one a general comment about (over)interpretation, and one more specifically focused on occult materials. I am very interested in obsessive interpretation, in interpretation as a form of creativity. I suppose I got this in part from the deconstruction that was drilled into my brain when I studied literature in college, although most deconstruction struck me as anemic in its creation of the “text,” and so often seemed motivated by a resentment of or suspicion about the imaginative power of texts. I was more interested in enhancing and clarifying the imaginative power of texts, in criticism as an intensification, a line of flight. Connections are more important than critiques. That’s why I always loved Deleuze the most, and still do.

I love the cosmological function, how the mind engages with images and myths to build a world, not just a fiction, but a world. For me, genuine obsession can make the most tawdry objects revelatory, and so I am fascinated by marginal but manic “readers” of all stripes, and with most sorts of text. The conjunction of a brilliant reading and a tawdry object strikes me as very profound, precisely because it is trivial. If the mind reading Thick as a Brick was creative and audacious, I would probably be able to go along with a breakdown of Jethro Tull’s abiding genius, at least for a spell. I can’t do sports though; I find organized sports fandom at best benignly boring, and at worst repulsive, unless the sport is something obscure like curling or that shamanic progenitor of polo that the Afghani warlords play with a goat head.

I believe the interpretive imagination is “open,” and that a responsibility to one’s creative daemon, and to questions of ultimate meaning, is as fundamental as a responsibility to history or the disenchanting function of the intellect. This interest in imaginative overreading underlies my abiding fascination with religious revelation, the occult, and “visionary culture” of all stripes. In my view, the occult is peculiar in that it is almost designed to elicit creative overinterpretation—it encourages the reader to start connecting x and y, planets and roses, and drawing links between different texts until an immense quasi-conspiracy of signification arises. This process, once unleashed, takes on a life of its own, and takes one on a journey from which you never altogether return. Because the occult is designed for this sort of hermeneutics, one no longer needs to speak about the intentionality or ultimate value of individual texts. Random information—want ads, comic books, stray conversations—can be transformed into grand cosmologies through the occult imagination, a process that ultimately leads to psychosis but underlies scores of great fictions as well. I don’t believe Plant and Page consciously put a lot of the stuff in that I describe, but I believe the creative imagination did. In other words, I allow the creative imagination a sort of agency because that’s the ticket to get into the door, an animism of consciousness. So I’d like to think my mythopoetic reading of a goofy rock record is both legitimate and perverse, and sustained—like the performance of magic—only by its own ability, or not, to amuse, instruct, bewitch. I am drawn to a sort of “sacred irony”: irony not as a simple dodge, but as a deeper turn of the screw.

MD: I’d be curious to know if you’re at all influenced by the hyperinterpretative excesses (let’s call it the Casaubon School of Obsessive Hermeneutics) of Lester Bangs, Greil Marcus, Harold Bloom, Steven Shaviro, Hillel Schwartz, fan writings on the Net, wingnut religious screeds, or—?

ED: Some figures more than others—Bangs and Bloom for sure, and also religious fanatics and mystic paranoids. For me, interpretation has always partly been about the imagination, in a fairly classic sense of the term. I am both drawn towards “texts” (writers, records, art, religions, etc.) that are characterized by a brazen and novel imagination, and by an interpretive approach that tries to enchant the reader with some imaginative figure—sometimes only half-revealed, even to myself—as well as convince them with argument. I like that kind of excess, so easy to get away with in fiction, and so much harder to pull off successfully in nonfiction. Greil Marcus, for example, has written some really brilliant texts in this way, but a lot of his more recent stuff seems kind of gassy to me. That said, I recently saw him speak about Dock Boggs and Son House, and there were a few moments when I felt a moment that I recognize from some of my favorite visionary poets/mystic teachers/apocalyptic raconteurs, etc.: a kind of vertical stab of “immanent transcendence”—a kind of interpretive epiphany that approaches gnosis. And it is in this Bloomian sense that I am most gnostic.

MD: To what extent did mining meaning from lyrics and the legendary record covers of the ’70s influence your evolution as a cultural critic? I’ve often thought that a ’70s adolescence spent in a beer-bong haze, penetrating the mysteries of, say, Tales from Topographic Oceans, or the gatefold imagery of Yessongs, was the Talmudic proving ground of critics like yourself and Julian Dibbell and maybe Simon Reynolds.

ED: I can’t speak for those fine gentlemen, although I would certainly include yourself in the list as well! I know that I am, on many different levels, a child of the ’70s, even though I didn’t become a teenager until 1980. But, in a way, that makes sense. At that age when mythologies are strong—late childhood, early adolescence—I absorbed the hazy, mystic, paranoid vibrations of mid-’70s white SoCal coastal culture. I bought cheap used metaphysical paperbacks, SF, and occult books loosed on the world through the hippie mystic boom. In the early ’80s, my best friends and I were relatively retro. We had fun, but we felt ourselves to be “seekers,” and part of what we were seeking was the essence of the cultural generation that immediately preceded ours. Though we liked contemporary bands as well, drugs were a kind of Wayback Machine, driving down to some earlier moment of visionary communion hinted at in Yes album covers, Pink Floyd, Zeppelin, Dead lyrics, Ziggy Stardust, Heavy Metal comic books, Moebius, Roeg’s Performance and Man Who Fell to Earth, that whole “pregnant image” culture of ’70s heads.

What was so satisfying about writing about Led Zeppelin was my ability to indulge and commune with this early layer of cultural consciousness. As I write in the introduction, it was like temporarily giving the 14-year-old weirdo I was the reigns of a man’s mind. Led Zeppelin was such a touchstone then that I found myself tapping into parts of myself I had forgotten. I even had a couple of “heavy” symbolic dreams that featured Jimmy Page! It was actually kind of profound, but with the goofiness included.

MD: You mentioned Gilles Deleuze, perhaps the most enduringly fashionable French philosopher of the past few decades. Baudrillard and Foucault have taken their places in the cultural Burgess Shale, alongside Dwight MacDonald and C. Wright Mills and other intellectual fossils, but Deleuze’s stock just keeps going up. That said, I have a confession to make: Reading Deleuze and Guattari, for me, has always felt like breaststroking through quick-drying cement. I mounted a spirited assault on Mille Plateaux and emerged from the book a beaten man, staggering down from the summit snow-blind, oxygen-deprived, fingers gnawed to stumps by frostbite, like one of those godforsaken climbers in Into Thin Air. Nomadology, the Body Without Organs, the machinic phylum, the rhizomatic whatever: I grasp the nub of these ideas, or think I do, but clawing my way through the briar patch of D&G’s Gallic prose leaves me exhausted and bleeding. What am I missing? And how have Deleuze’s ideas enriched your critical methodology, exactly? More generally, why do you think Deleuze’s ideas have struck such a responsive chord, in recent years?

ED: That’s a big Q. I’ll just stick to my own work, since I really haven’t tracked the Deleuzian scene in a while. “Back in the day” I was a total maniac for the stuff, and moderated a fascinating listserv devoted to D&G. I think I was attracted to their work because, of all the French poststructuralist thinkers I felt compelled to “master” during college, D&G were by far the trippiest—and the funniest. But I think my own take is rather different from the perspective of many, uh, “orthodox” Deleuzians. I believe Mille Plateaux is a psychedelic text. I think they were trying to write and think a sort of perception, where every aspect of mind and culture are seen as expressions of a mutant probing Tao that is constantly congealing and liquefying as it moves along. Delanda, one of D&G’s most interesting interpreters, is occasionally explicit about their psychedelic dimension, though I interpret this dimension in a more explicitly spiritual/Dionysian/Taoist manner that Delanda or most Deleuzian thinkers. The spiritual key to their work is in the chapter “How do you make yourself a Body without Organs”? It is all about Tantra, although they do not use the term.

Many of the things that interest me are not “Deleuzian.” I am still too devoted to cultures of transcendence, and I do not have the intense yen for extreme, near nihilist deterritorialization that, at one time anyway, passed for a properly Deleuzian ethics (incorrectly, IMHO). But the way I think and write is, I like to think, influenced by D&G’s method—not the crazy jargon and over-the-top erudition I aspire to but will never reach, but the notion of writing as a connection-machine, a network of intensities, points of resonance, pregnant echoes, etc. The power of the text emerges out of the positive energy developed from those connections. In my own relatively pop way, that is how I proceed. In that sense, I am not really a “critic,” because I don’t spend a lot of time in the critical or negative mode, in the dialectical sense. I build connections and links without worrying too much about causality or overanalyzing the source for my passions. Like most intellectuals, I am enchanted by disenchantment, but I am also inspired by the object under my gaze, and trace those juicy flows while following my own.

MD: You’ve invoked the ’70s as something like a floating world, a Temporary Autonomous Zone, a beer-bong utopia, here and elsewhere. Can you give me a free-associated thick description of how the ’70s feels and what it means, in mythic terms, for you? I lived through them, but am always stunned by the obvious revelation that culture regresses as much as it progresses. Do you ever feel, as I do, that the ’70s was a more permissive, more libidinous, more ecstatic time? For example, masculinity was a much more fluid concept then, from the shag-haired ephebe David Cassidy to the skinny, slim-hipped athleticism of Mark Spitz (a far cry from today’s steroidal athletes) to the moonage androgyny of David Bowie to, yes, the pre-Raphaelite femininity of Robert Plant, who for all his crotch-grabbing machismo wore girls’ puffed-sleeve shirts and toyed limp-wristedly with his Botticelli curls, onstage. Where do the coordinates of the ’70s lie, in the timespace of your imagination? What do they stand for, in your personal cosmology? And how do Led Zep’s gender politics fit into that lost world? (Is it too obvious to point out Plant, with his girlyboy posturing, served as a surrogate for the sacrificial virgin—a screen for the projection of a largely male teenage fandom’s fantasies?)

ED: I have always been inordinately fond of the 1970s, especially the early 1970s. For one thing, it was the era when I achieved self-awareness, and my memories of that time are bathed in a twilight glow, a doubled twilight of nostalgia and the era’s own post-’60s fade. I have been blessed and cursed with a powerful zeitgeist radar. (I say cursed because it has made the last four years hell.) So when I was a little kid, I feel like I picked up all that post ’60s spiritual wanderlust, anomie, and funk. I also believe it was the only time in American history when the culture was actually dominated by the negative—by pessimism, paranoia, and doubt. This is fascinating, and crucial to look at it, especially as things grow grim. All the goofy shit that people fetishize about the era cloaks an existential and political abyss. At the same time, the utopian, transformative, ecological strains were there in force, expressing themselves in all sorts of wild, and sometimes rather effective, ways.
Then there’s the libidinal profile of the time, which was a more permissive and more “feminine” era. Masculinity tended towards the flared and droopy and fringed rather than the straight and narrow. This gives it a utopian tinge, for sure, at least for those of us who like such things loose. But equally important to the era’s libidinal profile is a kind of melancholia, the melancholia of the hedonist who realizes that the full degree of pleasure does not fill the hole in the soul, maybe even makes the hole wider and darker. Think of the Ice Storm. I believe the turn towards spirituality is part of the same movement as this hedonic excess. Spiritual hedonism is a key to the era. Iaon Couliano talks about the connection between sex and spirit in his book on magic in the Renaissance, where he points out that attitudes and even fashion were more voluptuous in the Renaissance, when the cultural and explanatory power of magic was waxing. As we get into the 17th century, shit starts to get tight, although pretty soon you get all those wacky-assed wigs. That connection is also why Led Zeppelin, the most powerfully “mystic” major rock band around, was also the most profane—not just in their loud and urgent riffs, but in their behavior, or at least their rumored behavior (for we are in the realm of images here more than facts). They were also “manned,” so to speak, by one of the most deliciously androgynous figures in rock, a man whose femme side was, for me, both more fascinating and more attractive than Mick or Bowie or Lou Reed. Plant did not have the sense of irony and sophistication those fellows did, but he was also, for all that, strangely wholesome, a naivete that makes the whole shtick even more charming. Let’s not forget: Zep dressed in drag on the sleeve of Physical Graffiti years before [the Rolling Stones’] Some Girls.

MD: “I melted into a profound and adolescent reverie,” you write, early on, establishing the emotional atmosphere of a book steeped in nostalgia.

I recalled a childhood dream of Nordic fjords, and a particularly skunky bongload beneath the California stars, and my most incandescent high school crush, a blond named Barbara Zinke whom I half-believed was a white witch.

What role does nostalgia play, in your writing? And what are the politics of nostalgia? Is reminiscing inherently conservative, in the literal sense that it wants to conserve the past? American men are sometimes pilloried for their arrested adolescence, for channeling their Inner Teenagers way too often: think Jack Black in School of Rock, Kevin Spacey’s flashbacks to his eight-track days in American Beauty, even Homer Simpson’s fond reveries of his platform-shoed youth. If you buy my premise that this sort of back-to-the-futurism is a Guy Thing, why are American men (especially boomers) drawn to such flights out of time, teleporting ourselves into the Excellent Adventures of our pasts?

ED: On one level, reveling in this kind of cultural nostalgia seems neither more damaging nor more interesting then watching those nostalgic representations in the first place. Nostalgia is a kind of personal TV, like an iPod playlist with all the songs you once loved but now see through but listen to anyway. I watch TV like this, at least sometimes. But in general I don’t particularly enjoy this sort of nostalgia, the attempt to buy back or dress up or repeat. I don’t think it’s very complex: we turn to adolescence to recover a sense of self, of an earlier nexus of possibility. At the same time, by reveling in the goofiness of the anachronisms we can remind ourselves that all those dreams were a bit misplaced. Or that second move never occurs, and we just live in a skipped CD repeat or plugged into the same classic rock countdown.

What interests me about nostalgia, though, is the sharper emotional call it conceals, the sense of something calling from afar, of voices from the past whispering of what is to come. This deeper, self-aware nostalgia is unfulfilled by the trash of the past, and it can be a gateway into sacred forces, to a sense of self that refuses nihilism while acknowledging our basic, constitutive lack, and rejects all the things that normally and only provisionally offer satisfaction. This is the nostalgia, not for a specific time in one’s past, but for a general past, for roots perhaps, or an informing tradition. And yet there is this sense in deep nostalgia that what is being longed for is not in time at all. Not to be corny, but that’s what I think Plant stumbled into with the line about the feeling he gets when he looks to the west, the feeling that his spirit is crying to leave.

Certainly there is a relationship between nostalgia, whether personal or spiritual, to conservative or reactionary politics, which is one reason progressive or avant-garde circles often reject the autumnal glow of nostalgia as false consciousness. But I think in our intensely mutating world, the instinctive reaction against classic conservatism is, like most things, too simple—after all, our “conservatives” these days are anything but. Today’s Republicans are globalist revolutionaries who use a fabricated and deeply contemporary Christian “traditionalism” to create an untraditional politics of moralistic marketing and idiot affect that blocks or displaces what should be legitimate anger, resentment, and resistance at what aspects of our shared world are being sustained, or conserved, and what is being crushed beneath the engines. A genuine conservatism—I am not trying to recuperate the word, just play with it—would be interested in maintaining certain lines of development—cultural, biophysical, genetic, etc.—against the Frankenstein monster of nihilistic posthuman capitalism. That is why I still think that the problematic idea of tradition still has tremendous value, because the progressive intellectual attempt to be purely contemporary, to jettison all nostalgia, leaves one with very little ballast against the flattening dominant paradigm of posthuman mutation. It cedes the whole rich and potent field of past meanings to reactionaries, rather than cultivating its convulsive spark.

MD: You touch, at points, on the dazzling gatefold album covers of Hipgnosis and other ’70s graphic-design groups as a sort of virtual reality. As well, you image the ’70s album as “a concrete talisman that drew you into its world, into a frame.” And you quote Page on the subject of music as what we would now call acoustic cyberspace—a psychological geography that we traverse while listening to it, a psychoacoustic space with a sense of place. What is the relationship between sound and image, in ’70s rock, and how essential was that relationship to the total experience of inhabiting what the Like, Wow crowd called an album’s “headspace”? (Instructive term, that.) More generally, what are the connective threads, conceptually speaking, between, say, looking at a landscape painting, a Roger Dean record cover, the jackets of the old Lord of the Rings paperbacks, black light posters, M.C. Escher calendar art, a videogame like Myst, and virtual worlds, if any? What is it about the ape mind that wants to project itself into imaginary landscapes, and what memetic role did the ’70s album cover, the music that was its soundtrack, and the imaginary geographies they constituted play in the construction of the “wraparound sensorium” (McLuhan) we now inhabit, as residents of the Matrix?

ED: “Head” to me has always been a more interesting cultural category to me than “hippie.” One way into the headspace of the heads is by brushing off the hoary old term Imagination: the faculty of producing and synthesizing images, which is something we use all the time, in ordinary life as well as in dreams, but is amplified through certain practices, such as guided visualization, taking drugs, occult practices, staring at clouds, and drawing fantastic landscapes. One way of characterizing the ’60s turn is that it staged a gaudy return of the romantic Imagination into a new technological milieu. The formal mutations in the media of the 1960s—in stereo recording, offset printing, FM radio, etc.—created a new and undefined space that called forth the fecund, erotic, and magical powers of the imagination. The rise of the occult, in this view, was simply a response to a formal shift that prioritized right-brain drift, synchronistic associations, image overload, and a sense of virtual transport—all that stuff that McLuhan talked about. What you have with something like Yes’s Tales from Topographic Oceans is an ultimately synesthetic gesture, where title, lyric, music, recording “space,” and visible package all contribute to the construction of a space of the imagination—that is, a work of mixed media seeking holism. The relative loss of this psychedelic undertow for the decade and a half following the mid-’70s head world simply represents the codification and absorption of this space, one in which the synthetic function of the imagination is increasingly supplied by the apparatus. It’s an old dynamic, but an intense one, which continues today. Instead of text-based MUDs, which once called forth mental images the way fantasy books like The Lord of the Rings did, we have immersive, visually claustrophobic and unambiguous imagestreams, worlds that threaten to take over the real, in a Matrix-like fashion. Part of the nostalgia for ’70s head media—at least, for my own—is that it reflects our current order of virtuality in a quaint, almost storybook fashion.

MD: You oppose critique and connectionism, arguing that “connections are more important than critiques.” I find this angle of attack fascinating, for several reasons. First, the prevailing intellectual winds seem to be blowing your way. The cottage industry in Deleuze studies notwithstanding, critical theory (in the ’80s, French-postmodernist sense of the word) has lost its sex appeal. “Theory” is in route, with “criticism” following close on its heels. The media theorist McKenzie Wark has called critique to account for fetishizing the very power it decries—making “an ornament” of power, he memorably calls it. Recently, he told me that was more interested in winkling whatever useful morsels he could out of the object of knowledge under scrutiny, rather than immersing it in the acid bath of critique.

I take all of these points, but worry that, at its most unreflective, this position is either too uncritically celebratory (“If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all”) or that it’s simply a rhetorical miming of the associative nature of the brain’s workings. At their most fashionably affectless and blithely apolitical, pop semioticians such as Robert Rauschenberg, David Byrne, and Laurie Anderson teeter on the brink of this latter category, stringing together free-floating images and weightless one-liners in a signifying chain whose circular logic leads us nowhere and illuminates next to nothing.

None of which is to say that your point doesn’t get a lot of traction with me. Like Deleuze’s writings, with their fractal branchings and far-flung conceptual leaps, essays that embrace the Digital-Age paradigm of the Garden of Forking Paths rather than the Enlightenment-era paradigm of the linear argument seem right for our times. As McLuhan noted, “When information is brushed against information…the results are startling and effective.”

But doesn’t a rhetorical paradigm founded on the link run the risk of merely forging a Derridean chain that never reaches a conclusion, but merely hopscotches from one allusion to another, world without end? And what is the aggregate effect of connectionist writing? If the argument seeks to persuade—THIS proves THAT—what does the associative essay seek to do? Reference a reference that references a reference that…? If the one is too linear, is the other too circular—a mental maze without end where the Meaning of It All is always just around the bend, but forever deferred.

Another thought: Isn’t the associative essay inherently nostalgic, in the sense that it relies on the neurocognitive mechanism of memory—THIS reminds me of THAT, which reminds of THIS, which…? If so, the specter of solipsism haunts the whole endeavor.

ED: Well, that’s a lot to chew on. I have thought about this issue some, and I am frankly basically flummoxed. Your concerns are acutely stated. In drifting away from critique, from the negative, hell, even from Truth, connectionism represents a move towards improvised, provisional, and contextual associations that may mirror the general dumbing-down of public discourse, which tends toward an almost sensory array of intensities rather a more linguistically or narratively defined sense of meaning. For me, however, the connectionist method, whether of James Burke or Thomas Pynchon or Kodwo Eshun in More Brilliant than the Sun , reflects the way I actually think—when I go too far into critique, in arguing an opinion, indeed in “argument” at all—I feel like I am wearing an ill-fitting set of clothes. For me, the way to avoid the Derridean abyss is to pursue resonance, a rhetorical effect that for me acts as a gateway into a deeper engagement with mystery, whether that mystery be nostalgic, or prophetic, or just uncanny. Juxtapositions strike me as more life-affirming, and funnier, than argument and critique. Part of the fun of the Zeppelin book was to see how far resonance could take me.

I also believe that there are sources for us that lie beyond the rational, beyond the skin-encapsulated ego, and that we are entering a period of history that is so recombinant and novel that synchronicities are as likely to save us as anything. I have a certain faith in McLuhan’s “startling and effective” juxtapositions of information, if not to clarify as much as straight critical argument, which so often sounds like a broken record, than at least to deepen our engagement with the complexities of the moment. In this sense, associational thinking is not inherently nostalgic, because the logic that ties together juxtapositions can be quite surprising and odd—against the grain, as it were, and therefore potentially as much about the future as the past. “Solipsism haunts the whole endeavor”—what else does it mean to write?


  1. Weblogsky wrote:

    Stairway to Heaven

    What could be better than an Erik Davis book that explores the roots in mysticism of Led Zeppelin’s songs? A Mark Dery interview with Erik, is what!I believe the interpretive imagination is “open,” and that a responsibility to one’s creative…

    Tuesday, June 7, 2005 at 1:16 am | Permalink
  2. Great interview! I found you through The Revealer and I’m spreading the word on my humble blog.

    Thursday, June 9, 2005 at 8:33 am | Permalink
  3. M. Dery wrote:

    Thanks! Nice of THE REVEALER to do a shout-out, even if it meant being tagged a “geek,” despite a lifetime’s manful struggles toward coolhood.

    Friday, June 10, 2005 at 1:00 pm | Permalink
  4. Mark Dery has a Blog

    Just found this blog via AKMA Shovelware by Mark Dery. I read a couple of books by him way back at the outset of the Web, when I was doing some heavy research into online community. His books were Flame…

    Saturday, June 11, 2005 at 8:10 pm | Permalink