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Re: R.i.P. Jonathan Valania

R.i.P. Jonathan Valania
September 13, 2021 08:13AM
Senior feature writer for Magnet magazine for years.

He seemed to be pretty beloved by Magnet readers, but TBH, he was one of the many reasons why I eventually soured on Magnet - I've never been a particular fan of the whole "my experiences in obtaining this interview are a fascinating part of the story" style of journalism, and it was the style he steadfastly adhered to. I don't think I ever bothered reading anything with his byline again after he turned a cover story on Spiritualized into a tale of himself trying to travel in the days following 9/11. It may have actually been well written - I don't recall - but I just never cared a whole lot for the "this interview will be a chapter in my autobiography someday" style of writing. (And it's entirely possible that my aversion to his writing was just sour grapes on my part because I unwisely dropped my journalism double major in favor of concentrating on my art major, then had to read Valania finding a way to drop the fact that he was riding Soul Asylum's tour bus with Winona Ryder into a story about Wilco, while I was stuck churning out graphic design for Baptists. That possibility can't be discounted.)

Good lord - this post turned into a Jonathan Valania article...

But anyhow, my personal tastes aside, I doubt you get to be one of the major writers covering alt-rock in the 90s and early 00s - which he by definition was - without being somewhat good at the job. So respect to him.
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ira
Re: R.i.P. Jonathan Valania
September 13, 2021 11:25AM
I guess you won't be reading my autobiography then...
Re: R.i.P. Jonathan Valania
September 13, 2021 03:01PM
Hmmm. Let me see if I can express this better. The style of writing that I find irritating is when it feels like it's veering into name-dropping or self-aggrandizement. If a writer weaves their experiences into the story in a way that's illuminating about the artist being profiled, or about what that artist means to the writer, then that's great - it's about the meaning of the artist in the context of the writer's life and furthers a reader's understanding of an artist. That's good writing. If it's a lot of "this happened to me while I was writing this article and it doesn't really have anything to do with the topic at hand, I just wanted to mention it because it was cool and it happened to me", then I'm fine without it. I don't really care what the writer ate in the course of conducting an interview unless it somehow reflects a truth about the person being interviewed, but some writers are desperate for their readers to know that they had trout almondine and it was exquisite.

If, say, a New Yorker were to talk about his experience arriving at the Rockford, Illinois airport to interview Cheap Trick, that sheds light on Cheap Trick's background in a Midwestern semi-backwater city and understanding it. But if a writer takes time out of a story about Artist A to talk about the afternoon they spent driving around with Artist A's semifamous significant other while the artist was otherwise occupied, without detailing any information gained from that afternoon that was relevant regarding the artist being profiled, to me that's just showing off.

So I don't know if that clears up my point of view any better or not. Probably the only really obvious point I made is that I'm a complete and utter asshole for using the occasion of a respected professional's death to point out that I never cared much for his writing.
ira
Re: R.i.P. Jonathan Valania
September 13, 2021 03:37PM
i wasn't challenging you, honest, and I have no quarrel with anything you wrote. My comment was only apropos of the fact that I used the form of anthology/memoir to provide some narrative context to some of my encounters. You're entitled to your opinion, and you've explained it well.
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