The above video is from The Black Keys‘ appearance on Jian Gomeshi’s Q on the CBC, with the boys discussing the idea of “selling out”, I’d just got it a few minutes ago and it gave me pause. Whenever the “selling out” concept is brought up in conversation, usually in a dismissive or sneering manner, I always think of Dave Eggers‘ short essay from 2000 on the subject. (My God, I can’t believe it’s from 2000, and that 2000 is so long ago already!)
Anyways, this is from when McSweeneys was only around Issue #4, he’d just been nominated for a Pulitzer for A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius, and had sold the movie rights to the book. Those rights, which have long expired, were sold to help him assist various charities, fund his now-national 826 non-profit association teaching inner-city kids reading and writing skills, and also to help him continue to fund McSweeney’s which was supporting unpublished authors by giving them exposure and encouragement. His star was ascending quickly and cries of “Sell-out!” seemed to dovetail with that ascension.
One of the excellent nuggets from the piece:
There is a point in one’s life when one cares about selling out and not selling out. One worries whether or not wearing a certain shirt means that they are behind the curve or ahead of it, or that having certain music in one’s collection means that they are impressive, or unimpressive.
Thankfully, for some, this all passes. I am here to tell you that I have, a few years ago, found my way out of that thicket of comparison and relentless suspicion and judgment. And it is a nice feeling. Because, in the end, no one will ever give a shit who has kept shit ‘real’ except the two or three people, sitting in their apartments, bitter and self-devouring, who take it upon themselves to wonder about such things. The keeping real of shit matters to some people, but it does not matter to me. It’s fashion, and I don’t like fashion, because fashion does not matter.
What matters is that you do good work. What matters is that you produce things that are true and will stand.
The piece has always stuck with me, adopting elements of it to my own general philosophy. Of course, I’m not talking about anything as grand, whether commercial or charitable as he was, but it was the essence of the piece I found inspiring. As an example, I used to worry about the optics of me recommending wine from bigger, corporate wineries – not just wines from independent, farmer-run, bio-dynamic, blah blah blah… But while I’ll always instinctually champion and pass along wines (and other things) from the little guy, I’m not afraid to occasionally say, yeah- you know what? That Cono Sur Organic Pinot Noir IS killer value, and well-crafted and will make you happy, because above all else – it’s true. And if there were an independently-produced, smaller production more hands-on organic Pinot that was around the same price-point, I’d wave their flag instead. But, at the moment there isn’t. If I questioned their ethics as a company, then it would be a totally different story.
My job, in its various capacities, is to recommend good wine. Sometimes you only have 15 bucks and want a Pinot Noir, and ideally something organic. I rest much better knowing I’ve passed along something tasty, well-made, and something you’ll enjoy with your dinner rather than recommending a bottle of crappy plonk simply ’cause the grapes were hand-picked by virgins and there’s only 60 cases a year made from them. Of course, those wines are rarely fifteen bucks a pop anyways…
But I digress.
This started out because The Black Keys discussed ‘Selling Out’ and it made me think of the Eggers thing, and I wanted to pass it along.
You can read in its entirety right here…
(By the way, I was gonna originally post this on the “Etc.” side of the site, but I figure I kinda ended up recommending a wine as I rambled on, so there you go.)