June 11, 2015

And then, as the book was nearing completion, I suddenly panicked...


The original title for this book was Artists Are Self-Absorbed. And then, as the book was nearing completion, I suddenly panicked, feeling I couldn’t give the book such a negative title, that sending it out into the world with a self-defeating name was almost a form of self-sabotage, and my entire life had been a series of incidents of self-sabotage and now was the time to change. To get on my own side and, hopefully, turn things around a bit. And in a way I already had another title in my back pocket: Polyamorous Love Song. It was a title I had used for a short-lived music column and it was a title that had already received much love. The idea of the column was that most love songs, mainstream or otherwise, are directed towards one person, the ultimate soul mate or new excitement, and maybe a polyamorous love song, a love song directed towards a few (or many) soul mates, might undermine some of the basic songwriting assumptions, be a small step towards a more liberating, emacipatory way of being alive. Then something else occurred to me: that this explanation might also be a form of self-sabotage. So many paradoxes piled upon paradoxes.

It was around that time I became obsessed with the idea that I wanted people to read my books long after I died, that I wanted to be one of those authors – like Kafka, like Walser, like so many others – whose work only found a substantial readership after they were gone. I didn’t want to do anything in particular to bring about this goal. I just wanted to work, to live, within the vague, unverifiable hope that it might eventually come true. And it occurred to me that this hope was a bit like the Christian idea of an afterlife, that my body would die but my work would live on in the eternal heaven of a considerable posthumous readership.

And then another thought. Maybe all works of art are some kind of polyamorous love songs, offerings sent out into the world in order to get everyone to love you. Works of art and literature are not directed towards one person but towards many. Songs in the sense of bird song, messages thrown out into the world. At times I felt that everything about being an artist is encapsulated in the tension between these two titles, between Artists Are Self-Absorbed and Polyamorous Love Song. And by changing the title it was almost like I was trying to say: look, I’m no longer self-absorbed. I’m not the same person I was when I started writing this book, when I started dreaming it. Or at least I wish I wasn’t. However, I fear I am more the same than ever.

- From the interview: "I Have Never Watched Pornography" - 11 Questions with the Author of Polyamorous Love Song


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