About The Best American Nonrequired Reading Committee

Our selection committee consists of a handful of high school students. One
contingent is in the Bay Area and a second is in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
These students help Dave Eggers edit The Best American Nonrequired Reading.
Daniel Gumbiner is the book's managing editor; Henry W. Leung and Jia Tolentino
are the assistant managing editors facilitating the committee in Michigan.

This collection, published by Houghton-Mifflin, compiles the country's best
fiction, journalism, essays, comics, and humor every year, and introduces
a large readership to dozens of new writers and publications.

The Best American Nonrequired Reading committee comprising
students from dozens of different high schools meets nearly every week of the
year to read, debate, and compile this offbeat but vital anthology.

Want to say something to us? Contact the BANR committee at
nonrequired@gmail.com. We'll read everything you send us.

BANR's thoughts on Beck's Odelay - 10th Anniversary Release

On the 10th anniversary of the release of Beck's Odelay, Dave Eggers interviewed members of The Best American Nonrequired Reading Committee about their thoughts on the album and the artist. Beck wrote the introduction to The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2005 edition.

Sally Sarai Holden
Age 15, Balboa High School, San Francisco

Sally, what has Odelay meant to you?

This album we're listening to.
I've never heard it.

You haven't?

Have you heard of Beck?
I think so. In a movie maybe.

In a movie? What movie?
It was called Beauty Shop, I think. I can't remember. Was he mentioned in that? Or maybe it was Bach.

Okay, let's start over. Odelay is ten years old now. Do you think this song we're listening to ["Where It's At"] sounds relevant now?
Yeah. I'd probably listen to it. I like listening to it. I like this song.

What kind of music do you usually listen to?
Rock, hip-hop, indie, soul. Anything.

Some would say this album contains a new kind of combination of all those things.
[Listening] Yeah, it's cool.

So do you think that if you'd heard this album when it came out ten years ago, your life would have been totally different?
I'm trying to think how old I am...Wait, I'm sixteen!

You told me a second ago that you're fifteen. When did you turn sixteen?

So it hasn't sunk in yet.
Not quite.

So the effect Odelay would have had on your life if you'd heard it when it came out...
Okay, so I would have been six years old...I can't tell if my life would have been different. I don't think I was into music when I was six years old. I was into sports. I played a lot of football.

So when you were six it was either Beck or football.
Yeah. The decision had to be made.

Nina Moog
Age 17, Lick Wilmerding High School, San Francisco

You've heard this album.

Where were you when you first heard it?
In my friend's room.

Which friend?
Celeste Haverkamp.

Celeste? Really? I thought you weren't friends with her.
What? I'm good friends with her. And Jordan Hollarsmith was there, too.

Jordan? Ugh. Don't you think Jordan's kind of a phony?
Yeah, totally!

Oops. I was just kidding.
I was too.

Oh. Touché!
Right. Touché.

So you listened to the album when it first came out?
What? I was like four years old. No, I heard it last year.

Where? From your parents?
No. My parents wouldn't play Beck. They only listen to Billy Joel and German polka music.

So do you see Beck as a contemporary musical artist, or someone who's maybe dead and lived in Vienna?
No, he's contemporary. I saw him at the Download Festival, and the audience was really young. But then when we got a ride home from my friend's dad and he was like 50 and he was listening to Beck. So it seemed older then. But he's pretty contemporary. One of my friends is in love with him. She has a picture of him.


Celeste has a picture of your friend's dad? Ew. I knew there was something funny about her...
No! She's not in love with my friend's dad. She's in love with Beck.

Oh. What does she love about him?
I don't know. He's kind of short I guess. And we all liked how he and the band ate their dinner onstage.

Katie Henry
Age 17, Berkeley High School, Berkeley

So what has Odelay meant to you?
Is that what's playing right now?

Yeah, that's the music. By Beck.
Is he Irish?

No. I don't think so.
It sort of sounds like something you'd trip on acid to.

Okay, wait a second. I have to make note for the jury that Katie Henry is currently wearing a pink Polo shirt and very clean, maybe even ironed, jeans. She doesn't look like someone--
Are you trying to convey that I haven't done acid? Because I haven't. I admit it.

So what is it about this song ["Derelict"] that sounds like acid-trip music?
I don't know. It sort of sounds like something you'd hear at the Himalayan Fair in Berkeley, when all of the white people try to pretend they're ethnic and have rhythm.

So clearly you like this song.
Yeah! I've lived in Berkeley all my life. I'm used to music like this.

Osvaldo Marquez-Gomez
Age 15, Gateway High School, San Francisco

Osvaldo, what has Odelay meant to you?
Well I haven't really heard it. I don't know what it means to me.

Can you believe it's been ten years since it came out?
No I can't. Or I can. I haven't heard it.

Now that you've heard some of it, what do you think?
Sounds like I might listen to it. It sounds relaxing, but it has a rhythm to it.

Does it sound like it was made ten years ago?
No, it sounds like it could have been made today.

So you're saying if you had heard it at a younger age, your life would have been different?
Huh? I don't think so. Are these really your questions?

Naomi Krupitski Wernham
Age 17, Berkeley High School, Berkeley

Do you remember when you first heard this album?
This album? I don't think I've heard this. Wait [listening to "Minus"]. I have heard this. My dad listens to this.

Is your dad hip with the music?
He loves music. He's not exactly contemporary, but he has everything done in the '70s.

What does he like about Beck?
I don't know. He has very strange taste in music.

Do you like it?
I like parts of it.

Do you know what Beck looks like?
Vaguely. I saw a video once...Isn't he a skinny white boy?

Does this song ["Sissyneck"] sound relevant to you?
In terms of something that can fit into what's being played today, sure. He sounds clever. He knows how to use sounds well.

Did you know that he won the Nobel Prize in 1998?
No, but that's pretty cool.

I was just kidding.

He didn't win that year. It was '99.

Eli Wolfe
Age 16, School of the Arts, San Francisco

When did you first hear Beck?
It was last year. My friend was playing him in his car.

Did it change your life?
No. But after I heard him, I went out to Amoeba [Records] to get a used Beck CD. And when I was getting that, I saw a Bob Marley CD and bought that. And that actually did change my life.

Which Beck CD did you buy?
I wound up not getting one.

Because you got the Marley instead.

You had a budget for just one CD.

Which Bob Marley album did you buy?
I think it was Living Legends.

Was it maybe just Legend?
Right. I played that over and over that day. Then I started writing while listening to music. Now I always listen to music when I write.

Could you write to this, what we're listening to?
Is this Beck?

It is.
Maybe. But it doesn't have a consistent enough beat. I could drive to this.

Where would you drive?
Probably by the beach. Around dusk. Stop at the Cliff House.

Why the beach?
I feel like I have to have some purpose when I drive around, but I can't be completely aware of it. So I drive toward the water and when I'm at the beach, I know I'm here.

And this would work for that?
I think so, yeah.

Carlos Cheung
Age 16, almost 17, Mission High School, San Francisco

Tell us about the day when Beck's album Odelay changed your life.
I've never heard of it...Or maybe I have. I'm not sure.

I assumed since you were sitting for this interview that--
What? You asked us to come into your office and do these interviews. Sally told me that I had to come up here next. I didn't--

Okay. Let's move on. Tell me, Carlos: What's the job of music?
I guess to help someone relax. To help put them back together.

I like that. What do you mean by that?
Sometimes people might be spread out too much. So music might help them calm down, figure out where they're at, what they're doing, what they want. To sort everything out.

Could this song ["Ramshackle"] do that for you?
[Listening] I think maybe it could.

Have you seen Beck?

What do you think he looks like?
Is he classical?

Is he classical? You're the second person who's mistaken him for Bach.
Oh. Sorry.

I'm talking about the guy we're listening to. What do you think he looks like?
Maybe some Caucasian guy with curly hair?

How do you figure?
Because this kind of music reminds me of that kind of guy. He sounds Caucasian. Listening to this I wouldn't think he's some Chinese guy.

Tanea Lunsford
Age 16, School of the Arts, San Francisco

Do you remember when you first heard Beck?
You mean just now?

Even before now. Did you ever hear of him before sitting down just now?

Have you heard of him?
I'm embarrassed to say I have not.

Now that you're hearing the music, do you like it?
I do like it.

This album was made ten years ago. Do you think it sounds relevant now?
It doesn't seem like it was done a long time ago. It's not like catchy '80s music. It doesn't sound like really calm music, but it also doesn't sound like I'm-going-to-drive-all-around-town-music. There's a happy medium.

Eli said it was drive around music.

You guys are friends. Now you guys have some issues to work out.
I guess so.

I don't want it to turn into a big fight, though.

Tell me it won't be a big fight. I don't want you two to fight.
We won't. I promise.

What do you listen to when you drive?
I only have my permit. But if I were to drive, I'm indecisive, so I'd just have to listen to a mix. Lots of different things.

Like what?
Stevie Wonder. And really bad, catchy songs.

Britney Spears?
No! Not that bad. I like John Legend. A lot of reggae. Maybe early Linkin Park.

What do you think of music that incorporates lots of styles?
I like it. It keeps you wondering. It's fulfilling.

You like music with lots of layers to it?

What kind of a guy do you think he is?
With a name like Beck? Beck would be about six-feet tall. Maybe blond hair. No facial hair. Maybe ripped jeans. He wouldn't wear socks.

You're right. Especially the ripped jeans. That's all he wears. Ripped jeans. Ripped all over.
See? I knew it.

Iris Zhang
Age 17, Mission High School, San Francisco

Tell us about the day when Beck changed your life.
What's that?

When you first heard Odelay and he--
I don't know about him at all.

Does this song ["Hotwax"] sound familiar?

What sort of music do you listen to?
Pretty much anything. I like Keren Ann. I guess soft rock and indie-ish.

Do you think people over thirty should be allowed to make music?
Yeah. Why not?

How about over forty?

Over fifty? Any limit?
No limits. Your style follows you. When you get older, the styles change, but it's still your style.

This album came out ten years ago. Does it still sound new?
I think so.

Now that you've heard it, would you buy it?
I would download it.

You mean you'd find a way to download it for free.

What does it take for you to spend money on music?
If it makes me feel relaxed. And if I can't find it anywhere online to get it for free.

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