Kris Kristofferson Ben Gerson

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Ben Gerson

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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[Kristofferson is best] known as a lyricist, and so any consideration of his latest album, Border Lord …, ought to begin there. At regular intervals, I was confronted with lines ranging from [confusion to inanity to hyperbole to the kind of pseudo-poeticizing which should have gone out with Bob Lind and the Electric Prunes]….

Kris' celebrations of machismo are his most patently stupid entries. When [Mick] Jagger works with the form, it's endearing because basically Jagger's assertiveness is compensating for failure. With Kris, it's sheer one-dimensional braggodocio….

"Smokey," "Border Lord" … and "Gettin' By High and Strange" … are the "love" songs least ambiguous in their intent. But when Kris attempts to shade in the emotional side of his affairs, he really steps in it. In "Little Girl Lost," for example, the stanzas alternate between objective consideration of his "little girl," bitterness at the way he was treated by her, and a melting forgiveness addressed to a third party who is about to "take her." The transitions are abrupt and irrational.

Kris is equally indigestible when he waxes reflective…. On "Burden of Freedom," Kris plays his namesake, Christ … but proves his obtuseness and egocentricity in the last stanza when he "cleverly" turns the tables…. Asking for forgiveness of your enemies is indeed Christ-like; to ask for forgiveness of your own transgressions, with the implications that the person who would refuse it is morally unenlightened, is grossly self-indulgent.

Kris has a fondness for dualities—"the bitter for the sweet," "the laughter and the tears"—which includes a backwoods Calvinist sense of right and wrong. He also has a taste for cheap irony … as well as the ability to make the tautological sound striking…. His sentences are very long clauses and prepositional phrases Latinately balanced, and betray this country and western singer's Oxford education….

Kris may or may not be a poet, a picker, a prophet, a pusher, a pilgrim, and a preacher, as his song "The Pilgrim—Chapter 33" enumerates, but he certainly is "a walking...

(The entire section is 514 words.)