For me, the tone of this year was set by the death of David Bowie. Or more specifically, by the beyond-beautiful and inspiring way he played his imminent death, fought through not just fucking cancer but six heart attacks to create one last brilliant going-away present. Not just a gorgeous gift to all who loved him or should (which BLACKSTAR clearly is), but a lift-off platform for his soul as he said goodbye to both his meat and ours.
This is the artistic equivalent of a mother lifting a truck off her child. Such an act of love. An act of will. And an act of purest self-expression, right down to the very end.
There are certain people who evidently came here to say something. Or, at the very least, strangely awoke here, containing secret information so deeply encoded within them that they could not — cannot — let it rest. It has to be wrestled with at some deep fucking level, whether it is fully understood or not.
And, from that deep insideness, has to come out somewhere.
It has to be expressed. WILL NOT GO UNEXPRESSED. At which point, they go, “I will devote the rest of my life to pursuing this.” And then devote themselves to the craft (or crafts, as is often the case) that best expresses that immensity for their experience.
Studying the masters (which is to say, their favorites). Figuring out their techniques. Trying to get inside their strategies. Figure out how and why the things that worked for them worked so well.
If it’s books, they follow the words. If it’s music, they follow the notes. If it’s movies, they follow the motion pictures. Painting. Dance. You name it, they dug in that hard. In search of that level of mastery itself. Pursuing it and pursuing it. Till they actually hit the mark, and nail it for all to see.
I’m always fascinated by people who burn that hard, with that much raw kindling inside them. They’re the ones that tend to stand out from the crowd for me, cuz I can see how fucking hard they care the second their shit hits me. Can see their unique vision. Can see all the work they put in, to get it there.
This does not mean I don’t appreciate the trillions of talented people who just want to entertain us by reminding us of what we already know, retelling the popular stories we already love in their own way. The best of them keep that shit alive and vibrant. Ain’t nothing wrong with that!
But from where I stand, the best of the best have always been those who saw a hole in the firmament that only they could fill. Had a vision as-yet-unexpressed. Knew that no one but them could ever say it, or shoot it, or draw or sing or dance it like that. And then devoted their lives to precisely that thing.
They’re the motherfuckers I’m looking for hardest.
David Bowie was a true art hero because he ceaselessly pursued a vision that dragged him all the way from birth to death, and quite possibly beyond. In the process, he rediscovered himself over and over, as the times and his own self-image changed radically around him. Sometimes utterly lost. Indeed, some of the best times utterly lost. You can listen to him grapple with his soul in almost every note he ever let loose upon us.
But it wasn’t just about his ceaseless soul-grapple. It was about his will to share it. To communicate. To resonate within that soul-grapple with everybody else’s struggle, joy, and pain.
And past that, yes, a will to entertain. To make even the bitterest pill something you were dying to swallow. Because it rocked. It crooned. It swerved, grooved, and swayed. It broke you down. Took you in its sweet caress. Kissed your lips. Stroked your breast. Blew your mind. Pulled back in a scream that you felt in your bones. Held you, even as the universe pulled apart. Contemplative. Intimate.
And periodically fucked you senseless.
That, my friends, is a Fungasm for me.
So if you were to ask me what I want out of 21st-century art-o-tainment, I think you just got my answer.
THANK YOU, DAVID BOWIE!!!
Now it’s all up to us to carry that gorgeous spirit forward. With that same level of devotion.
Which is to say: I think you’re gonna like these books.
Yer pal in the trenches,