The current issue of City Online has an article about Broadway songwriter Richard Rogers. People find his way enigmatic, his reclusion and difficulty with other people. I have to admit, it’s not something to aspire to, but I can understand why people close themselves up that way. Some people need to do that to be creative, I guess. Some people are really different, it’s just their way.
Being different isn’t bad. I sometimes get apologetic about it, but I shouldn’t, and I know I shouldn’t.
I stood in front of my bookshelf this morning, asking myself, “Can I be one of you people?” I looked the books in the facewhatever that meansand thought of all the people who’d written all the pages on the shelves. Edward Said… dead, and before dead, a brilliant theorist if a bit flawed at points. Jules Verne, the funny and strange prophet of a bizarre twentieth century that never came. Nietzsche… brilliant but mad in the end, reclusive and solitary and what most of us would describe as screwed-up.
C.S. Lewis, anything but screwed up: a man of deep faith, which makes me skeptical, but a man of astonishing wisdom who lived out the most beautiful and heartwrenching love affair in his twilight years. Marx, with his head deep in politics. Walker Percy, meditating on faith and love and sanity. Rudyard Kipling, the pragmatist to end all pragmatists. Sylvia Plath, with all her confusion and sorrow and anger and also her amazing ear for beauty which somehow failed to carry her through the darkness.
Rimbaud, who changed French poetry forever and then walked away from it, still in his teens, and died in Africa as a weapons smuggler. Ray Bradbury, a craftsman who somehow managed to be totally average (what my friend Min Jung would describe as “normal”) in all respects aside from his writing. Greg Egan, about whom I know nothing beyond the fact he spends half his time computer-programming and the other half writing sf novels that blow my mind.
The shelves of the world should be a guide to us in life: there is room on the selves of our libraries for all sorts of people, people of all sizes and shapes and sorrows and hopes. I know I can be one of these people, that I soon will be, if I try. The thing that matters is not who you are, it’s what you do… what you write.
That’s true of life too.
It’s time to get a shower and go to work.