You don’t have to like Lou Reed to enjoy writer Jim Hanas’s episodic serial “Lou Reed’s Nephew” on Medium.com (the publishing platform hatched by Twitter founder Evan Williams). In fact, it may help if you don’t. Each week, Hanas relates a pseudo-philosophical conversation with the imaginary nephew of The Velvet Underground’s legendary lead, Lou. The nephew is a cynical twentysomething, unreliable and full of contradictions, while the narrator (a stand-in for Hanas?) plays the straight man – a sort of sounding board/journalist (which Hanas used to be). Conversation topics run from time travel to media criticism.
“Lou Reed’s Nephew” is inspired by Denis Diderot’s “Rameau’s Nephew” – a 18th century satire between “Moi” (“Me”), the narrator and “Lui” (“Him”), a self-absorbed youth from a well-to-do family who refuses to, in 21st century slang, sell-out like his uncle, the famous composer Jean-François Rameau. The uncle, late in his career, developed a reputation for being an “establishment” composer, but his music had gone out of fashion by end of the century. (Hello, Lou?) Diderot never saw “Rameau’s Nephew” in print (Goethe’s translation made it public 23 years after Diderot’s death), but Hanas is enjoying the kind of success in the publishing world that Lou Reed’s nephew would certainly deplore, just as he covets it.