The Writings of John Wenz

Philadelphia-based freelance writer for The Awl, Popular Mechanics, Mental Floss, Hear Nebraska and other publications.

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A few points I should add to my last post:

  • I believe Kurt Vonnegut was a writer who took some of these same conditions and turned it into a force of good. A cursory look at his essays confirms a strong secular humanist worldview intent on alleviating the suffering of others, while his fiction at times self-indulgently explored his own personal demons but tempered them with humor. 
  • I think those conditions can be stretched into the whole umbrella of Gonzo journalism - a need for it to be druggy and weird and seem to many to speak a truth, but instead speak an account of the truth through the lens of the author and their own concepts of reality. And thus it tends toward this same narrative. 
  • Bangs himself summed up this attitude, indirectly, with his writings on The Marble Index by Nico: “So I guess my editor and I are smitten. But the quality of the smiting is more than just peculiar; this article was assigned and written for fear as much as love, or the love of fear. In his poetically definitive book Stargazer, Stephen Koch, in trying to come to some understanding of his subject Andy Warhol, resorts to a quote from Baudelaire: ‘Half in love with easeful death.’ Then, just to drive home the point he is making about the intimacy between narcissism and Warholian deathly otherness, he writes: ‘Half in love. Exactly.’”
  • Art is not more interesting with suffering. Art is more interesting with how you use it and a wide range of other emotions too. Art does not have to be dark in order to be art.
  • These arguments can stretch into music and self-fulfilling prophecies and narratives in the music of misery. Which we all listen to at times as a cathartic experience, but when we live them (Ian Curtis, Elliot Smith, Kurt Cobain) it becomes an entirely different beast.
  • This is not to undercut the experience of depression, which is a horrible, infectious creature. But rather to say that when we romanticize the spectacle of it and treat things as a visceral experience then we’re dooming ourselves into repeating this same values system.