Creative What-Ifs

The Atlantic recently carried a fascinating article on the Lennon-McCartney songwriting team.  It’s hard to imagine that anything new could be written about the Beatles, but the writer’s thesis is that it’s silly to try to figure out whether John Lennon or Paul McCartney wrote most or all of a particular song, because that ignores the impact of the partnership itself and the broader relationship between these two gigantic talents.  They wouldn’t have produced so much good music, the theory goes, if they hadn’t been pushing and challenging and trying to outdo one another.

Sometimes partnerships work, sometimes they can become poisonous.  Creativity comes in all forms:  solitary geniuses, brilliant but self-destructive alcoholics, a sudden burst of novelty that causes an entire artistic community to realize that old boundaries should fall and experimentation and new approaches should replace the calcified prior techniques.  I’m not sure that it’s possible to really draw broad conclusions from a songwriting partnership like Lennon and McCartney.

What most intrigued me about the article, however, was the last part of it, when the writer explains that, according to his producer, Lennon was actively planning on collaborating with McCartney after he finished Double Fantasy.  Of course, the murderous actions of Mark David Chapman prevented that from happening — but what if Chapman hadn’t killed John Lennon?  Could Lennon and McCartney have successfully teamed up again, or would the magic had been gone?

There are lots of similar artistic what-ifs that are tantalizing to consider.  What if Mozart hadn’t died at such an early age and had a composing career that was as long as Haydn’s?  What if Charlie Parker hadn’t become addicted to morphine and heroin and had carried the jazz torch rather than Miles Davis?  What if J.D. Salinger had been as prolific as, say, Stephen King?  What if Vincent Van Gogh hadn’t committed suicide?  We’ll never know.

Caught in the Rye

It was a dreary rainy day in Columbus yesterday and since I’m not working right now I decided to lay in bed and read Catcher in the Rye in it’s entirety. Of course I loved the book, but while reading it I couldn’t help thinking about how Holden Caulfield would have expressed the current political climate and the fact that things don’t look so rosy right now for the younger generation. Here’s my take.

Boy, I bet President Obama is sore at the Republicans, really sore because he has been in office almost two years and they have yet to work with him on anything to try and make things better. Things are lousy, really awful right now especially the unemployment rate that’s currently at 9.6%. How am I gonna find a job, a good job, boy it makes me blue, blue as hell just thinking about it.

I wanna puke everytime I think about the Congress, the Congressmen are a bunch of jerks and the Senators are a bunch of phonies. They are all like around 100 years old and most of what they say is a bunch of crap. They talk about how they are gonna work together and they don’t, it’s just a bunch of bull. The whole thing just drives me crazy. 

Not to mention the deficit, I mean we are talking about a lot of dough. These politicans are really stupid spending like they do, they are a royal pain in my ass if you want to know the truth because I’m the one that’s gonna have to pay. I get scared sometimes that everything is gonna go lousy unless we do something and we are’nt doing a damn thing.

I can’t think about it any more cause it’s depressing the hell out of me.

Bill Watterson Speaks

Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin & Hobbes, recently gave his first interview in over twenty years. He didn’t say much, unfortunately, but he did talk about his reasons for ending the strip:

“By the end of 10 years, I’d said pretty much everything I had come there to say,” Watterson says. “If I had rolled along… for another five, 10 or 20 years, the people now “grieving” for “Calvin and Hobbes” would be wishing me dead and cursing newspapers for running tedious, ancient strips like mine instead of acquiring fresher, livelier talent.”

When asked if he will buy Calvin & Hobbes stamps when they are released, Mr. Watterson answers, “Immediately. I’m going to get in my horse and buggy and snail-mail a check for my newspaper subscription.” I detect Calvin’s father’s sentiments in that answer. His hatred of television, cars, and other aspects of modern busy life was one of the themes of the strip.

It’s interesting that Watterson gave this interview so soon after the death of another reclusive genius, J.D. Salinger. I wonder if Salinger’s death helped change his mind about his silence.