Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Nuclear Poetry

“Tangled Up In Blue” came across the shuffler the other day, and I was struck by this line (as I’ve been anytime I ever heard it):

She was married when we first met,
Soon to be divorced.
I helped her out of a jam, I guess,
But I used a little too much force.

Whew. Damn. Talk about economy of language. How rich the characters, how endless the plot possibilities, what wealth of emotions are suggested by these spare 28 words?


Monday, April 20, 2009

More Frank O’Hara...

A great scene from Mad Men, where Don Draper recites a passage from Frank O’Hara’s “Mayakovsky” (from Meditations in an Emergency):

Monday, April 13, 2009

Reaching Your Less-Than-Tortured Genius

Some interesting thoughts here, from the author of Eat, Pray, Love. I take issue with the premise of Gilbert’s argument, which seems to be that creative people are tortured by their talents primarily because of their fear of failure.

Two problems with this premise (for me):

1. Why aren’t people in other professions similarly tortured? (She mentions her father, a chemical engineer, never having to deal with this type of mental anguish — but she doesn’t offer a reason why not.)

2. Isn’t it more likely that the very mental construct that makes an artist, is the vehicle that drives his/her emotional despair? (I think of D.F. Wallace, who recently hanged himself. I don’t think he was troubled by the question of whether he would ever eclipse the success of Infinite Jest, as much as he was tortured by the existential questions and flabbergasting human observations that drove him to create the work in the first place.)

Ultimately, her suggestion of resurrecting the concept of the muse seems like a type of self deception, a way to excuse a shrinking away from responsibility for your own work. (I mean, come on — if your book sucks, that’s because you didn’t write a very good book. Are you really going to half blame the phantom whom you’re pretending lives behind the drywall?)

More to the point, this entire speech seems to be Gilbert’s personal emotional exercise in how she will negotiate the pressures and expectations forced on the rest of her career following a success that may never be duplicated or exceeded. A brave exercise, to be sure, but not one whose lessons should be foisted on an auditorium full of young artists.