Unreliable Narrator

Each of us is the unreliable narrator of our own lives. After all, it’s easier to see and judge the actions of others than it is to do so for ourselves. Some of us are our own best friends, some of us are our own worst enemies, none of us are to be trusted.

Especially don’t trust me when you read my prose ramblings. Like you, I am the unreliable narrator of my own life. I’m just better at writing it down than you are. That you can believe, but when I talk about plans for the future, pass unwarranted critique on things, philosophize, or generally essay anything in writing, you as the reader may never know if what I’m writing is sincere.

Sincerity in writing has its uses. It’s a device. But writing that is unfailingly sincere is tedious beyond measure. That’s why I hate so many of the songs that I hear, poems I read, and other poorly conceived work. It’s not the sincerity per se, it’s the inability to cope with the lasagna model (remember, the universe is nothing but a lasagna composed of infinite layers of meaning).

All of my work is noise. Like many children born each day on this planet, nobody wants it, but it insists on existing anyway. It has a will of its own, and you must learn to treat it as you would that gossiping cousin you can’t wait to catch up with every holiday.

Lou Reed & John Cale's "Small Town"

I won’t ask if you’ve ever heard John Cougar Mellencamp’s 1985 hit “Small Town.” I won’t sing it for you either, as the particular brand of sadism required to inflict such pain upon another sentient being’s soul is outside of the scope of my most esoteric kink.

“Small Town” is a disease. Thankfully, there is an antidote. The identically named first track from Lou Reed and John Cale’s 1990 album Songs for Drella cures the sick nostalgia for American small town life that Mellencamp perversely celebrates. The album was written as a tribute to their friend and collaborator Andy Warhol, and depicts the archetypal locale as somewhere one seeks to escape rather than somewhere one would wish to entrench oneself.

When you're growing up in a small town
When you're growing up in a small town
When you're growing up in a small town
You say, "no one famous ever came from here"

When you're growing up in a small town
And you're having a nervous breakdown
And you think that you'll never escape it
Yourself or the place that you live

Where did Picasso come from?
There's no Michelangelo coming from Pittsburgh
If art is the tip of the iceberg
I'm the part sinking below

When you're growing up in a small town
Bad skin, bad eyes, gay and fatty
People look at you funny
When you're in a small town

My father worked in construction
It's not something for which I'm suited
Oh, what is something for which you are suited?
Getting out of here

I hate being odd in a small town
If they stare let them stare in New York City
At this pink eyed painting albino
How far can my fantasy go?

I'm no Dali coming from Pittsburgh
No adorable lisping Capote
My hero, oh, do you think I could meet him?
I'd camp out at his front door

There's only one good thing about small town
There's only one good use for a small town
There's only one good thing about small town
You know that you want to get out

When you're growing up in a small town
You know you'll grow down in a small town
There's only one good use for a small town

You hate it and you'll know you have to leave

Songwriters: John Davies Cale / Lou Reed

Smalltown lyrics © John Cale Music Inc, Sony ATV Music Pub LLC