Monday, September 16, 2013
Some of my favorite stories I like to hear, especially when getting to know a person, is when they open and up and tell me "the book" that changed their lives. At some point in our conversational relationship, they learn I read and write, and then it is shared this amazing piece of literature they once read, that affected them so deeply, that it was adopted as a sort of bible they live by.
For me, this is a fascinating thought process and behavior, since personally nonesuch "book" exists in the schematic of my life, and sometimes I wonder if I hadn't at an early age decided that I wanted to be a writer, if perhaps it would be easier for me to choose one "book", versus the reality that is my passion, and how I have lost count of all the authors, and poets, and lyricists, and artists who I've admired over the years and devoured during my own periods of restlessness and seeking.
The power of the written word, and art as a whole, is an ideology I wholly support and recognize. I see scenarios where the messages are rich, and influential, and used to promote the better good. And then also, there are the interpretations of text, of what the artist is trying to say, and sometimes even the extreme case, where the art is taken to another personal level outside of the intention and control of the artist. History is riddled with these worst case scenarios, but as a writer I can honestly say I hope that my work only inspires compassion and beauty, rather than a degraded version of what people think I'm trying to say.
There must be a science to choosing one "book". Is it because it was read during a time of change, or upheaval, or loss, or confusion? Like being in the right place at the right moment. Is it security that these words provide? Reassurance? Affirmation? Is it because it struck a chord so close to home, you saw yourself inside the pages, and you lived vicariously in this character's world?
Friends have passed on their "book" to me, because they believed it helped to explain who they were, better than they could explain their selves. I've dated a man who was Howard Rourke. I know a playwright, who at one time owned nothing but a copy of The Magus and a sleeping bag in L.A.
I read differently as a writer. I connect, but yet I digest the art through an understanding of how it was crafted. There are books that have changed me, but not because I could quote their lines as though they belonged to me, or I could confuse them for my own. But because I wish I had written the lines first, because an author beat me to the punch, and because their damn good writing makes it that much harder to find an original voice.
“God, but life is loneliness, despite all the opiates, despite the shrill tinsel gaiety of "parties" with no purpose, despite the false grinning faces we all wear. And when at last you find someone to whom you feel you can pour out your soul, you stop in shock at the words you utter - they are so rusty, so ugly, so meaningless and feeble from being kept in the small cramped dark inside you so long. Yes, there is joy, fulfillment and companionship - but the loneliness of the soul in its appalling self-consciousness is horrible and overpowering.” - Sylvia Plath
“Whoever wants music instead of noise, joy instead of pleasure, soul instead of gold, creative work instead of business, passion instead of foolery, finds no home in this trivial world of ours.”
Friday, September 6, 2013
Today, while browsing for inspiring images for another tattoo, my interest was drawn to the mixed media art of Max Ernst's graphic novel, Une Semaine De Bonté ("A Week of Kindness")
The last time I took the plunge, I was seventeen and just liked the idea of having ink permanently etched into my skin for bragging rights. While now, at this point in my life, as a more rational adult (at least I like to tell myself this) I want to actually have a design I can live with, inextricably erasing those poor decisions of adolescence.
Ernst's work, progressive and controversial for the 30's, recalls for me a night where I was bartending in a hotel by an airport, and unknowingly struck up a conversation with Robin Zander, the lead singer and guitarist for Cheap Trick. At the time, Zander was working on a comic book about the corporate dominance of the music industry, and how his hero was fighting for the creative freedom of musicians (and artists, I should also include broadly). The High Priest of Sonic Noise, was the working title he gave it, which was later changed at the time of publication to .... of Rhythmic Noise.
Admittedly, I was fascinated with this concept. Because all I knew of comics and graphic novels, was the good versus evil plot line, the busty babes and the well-toned fighting machines having to save them. And although, I could recognize the standard story of all good will overcome and the underdog will always come out on top as optimistic messages of moral importance and grandeur, I still saw comics as fantastical creations for young-at-heart imaginations. I needed depth, and my preconceived notions of what this meant, were challenged when Zander talked about how it wasn't necessarily about the medium having the impact, so much as the underlying themes audiences eat up subconsciously-- the messages contained within. Not even getting into the subliminal, or low frequency sound wave conspiracy theories--just universal themes that trigger emotive responses.
Since that conversation, I have also become acquainted with the series, The Graphic Canon edited by Russ Kick. This is an anthology of sorts, where illustrators from all over, reinterpret famous works of classic literature. Everything from Shakespeare and Hemingway to David Foster Wallace and Edgar Allen Poe.