Anti-Biography

Aug 14 2010 @ 3:05pm

A music critic explains why he doesn't care about the private lives of songwriters:

To trace anybody's work, what they produce, what they put into the world, what you or I respond to, to somebody's life, their biography, is utterly reductionist. It's simply a way of protecting ourselves from the imagination, from the threat of the imagination. Some people are very uncomfortable with the idea they can be moved, they can be threatened, they can be thrilled by something that is just made up.

John Irving, the novelist, once said to me, "You know why that is? It's because people who don't have an imagination are terrified of people who do." I don't know if that's true, but we live in culture of the memoir, where we're not supposed to believe anything unless it's documented that it actually happened. Never mind that most memoirs are more fictional than novels. We want that imprimatur: "This really happened. This is really true." You can respond to it. You can feel "okay" about being moved by it.

Whereas with art, whether music, movies, novels, painting, ultimately, to be moved by art, by something somebody has made up, is, from a certain perspective, to be tricked. To be fooled. You made me cry, and you just did it like you hypnotized me. I love that. Not everybody does.