On seeing famous people
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Anybody famous you’d like to meet?
My answer: “No.”
Jorges Luis Borges was a literary hero of mine during my late teens. There’s a Jewish legend that God doesn’t destroy the world because there is a group of righteous men who justify it in His sight. With his modesty, inerrant sense of the apt, and distinct conceptions I thought of Borges as one who justified the continuance of what I thought of as the tawdry, vapid human race. I can’t say if I stopped reading Borges because he was so readily cultivated by the relentlessly sensitive. It might’ve been part of my refusal to read anything in translation (limiting for a monoglot).
Borges came to Emory University to speak. I went and was delighted and thrilled.
I’ve been to five rock concerts. David Bowie (probably Heroes), Roxy Music (reunion – Bryan Ferry’s eyes were surprisingly narrow, the photos must be airbrushed), John Cale (twice) and Nico* (looking nothing like the icy Euro-beauty of her album covers, her hands were on the beer bottles almost as much as the keys). If I’d seen Brian Eno, who had yet to move into airports, I’d’ve seen all my early 70s faves.
If Sarah Vaughan were still alive I might go. Given her powers of improvisation I might’ve heard something never captured on an LP.
But I don’t want to see or visit with anyone alive or dead that I admire or enjoy. We probably have little in common. They’ve received plenty of adulation. Many of them are subtler thinkers than I or have crochets that weary me.
In reading them and perhaps about them I’ve created my version of them. Their presence might modify my creation but it wouldn’t necessarily be more correct. There must be less subtle people you’ve seen many times without understanding. And people whose knowledge of your inner life is mediated by their own psychic warp and woof.
Of course there are lesser people, like actors. But what could Tor Johnson add to his performances in Plan 9 or Beast of Yucca Flats?
The artist’s value is in his art, not his person (which would make an aphorism if it didn’t sound so portentous).
* If you are ever looking for music to commit suicide to download her recension of The End.