Mystery, rather than “problem,” provides the context that the cultural ethnographer best uses to approach the experience of both the living and the writing of culture. In this work, H. L. Goodall, Jr., continues his discussion of the cultural ethnographer as detective through an investigation of what he calls the “rock n roll mystery.”
Using Bakhtin’s notion of “Carnival,” Goodall positions rock n roll as an important aspect of the American cultural experience using its lyrics and rhythm as a force of resistance to the dominant bureaucratic order. He argues that interpretive ethnography, where sentences use rhythms and emotions along with words to construct a work, parallels rock n roll in its creation of multiple voices struggling for creative and interpretive presence and space in the text. As there is no privileged text in the social life of rock n roll, there is no privileged voice in the writing of interpretive ethnography. It is, instead, a reading and writing method within the field of communication and the field of cultural studies that challenges the “existing wisdom.”
Goodall invites the reader to join him in the role of the detective who confronts, enters, and then participates in the mysteries of living. Through the use of his interpretive method, Goodall is able to move under the skin of experience to disclose the relationship among self, other(s), and context, an understanding only achieved by “going beneath the often cosmetic surfaces of cultural traffic to where symbols mingle with the driven stuff of life.” Because the “stuff of life” is laid out on the pages of this book, Goodall’s text is as compelling as a good novel and in some ways more intimate.