Music vs books
This is a comic that appeared in the December issue of Metro. It came out before Lorde won two grammies, hence the out-of-date prize in her hand. I went to see Lorde perform last Wednesday and she was extraordinary – so musical,such a compelling stage presence, great stage banter – and she’s only 17. I glimpsed Eleanor Catton at the same concert – she was there with her boyfriend, not mobbed or pushed over like Lorde would’ve been, which was curious since she’s just as much a super star. I don’t think writers can become famous like pop stars. You can’t ingest their work in 3 minutes. The emotional hit isn’t so immediate – you have to read and read and feel it build up, wash over you, drag you under. Does it drag you deeper? You don’t respond to literature with your body, in a crowd, your arms in the air or draped over your friends, sweat-swapping and singing along. The girls behind me at the Lorde concert knew all the words but they couldn’t sing in tune. When I tell people I’m a writer they often ask me if I’ve read The Luminaries. Yes, I say. It was beautifully written. It got really exciting towards the end. Usually they own it but haven’t started it. We can’t have a conversation about it yet – I can urge them to read it – but they say they have to wait until they go on holiday because it’s too long.
I just finished a memoir about punk musician Richard Hell and he drew it to a close at 1985. That’s when I became a writer, he said. Writers lives are boring. In some ways I found his life before he became a musician more interesting. Then he had intense relationship with his school friend Tom Miller and they ran away to Florida and wrote poetry together. Once he became a musician it was all about drugs and the girls he laid. I kind of hate reading descent-into-addiction stories, although I read them over and over. Today Philip Seymor Hoffman died with a needle in his arm. I loved Philip Seymour Hoffman as an actor. He had that wrecked, charismatic, going-to-seed intensity about him. He was wonderful in so many movies. Happiness. Capote. The Talented Mr Ripley. Synedoche. When he appeared you knew the movie had to be great. I see that he had a girlfriend and three children, that he lived in the West Village. No, Philip! I want to say, just like I groaned as I read Richard Hell. Why did you do it? What was so bad about your life that you needed to escape from it? But it’s too late to ask now. And Richard Hell was one of the lucky ones.