We enjoy literature either because we identify with the characters and their milieu and it makes us see ourselves and our surroundings in a novel and unique way, or because it takes us to completely unfamiliar places and expands our experiences beyond what we can experience personally. All intelligent living things indulge in some sort of play, and the evolutionary benefit is probably to prepare us for unexpected situations that we may encounter in our lives. It may be the same with literature – we hunger to expand the range of our personal experiences and walk into lives that are not ours. There are a few books that can get you into the skin of another person and make you experience a life that is entirely foreign to you. The only way to achieve this magic is through uncompromising honesty. Only when the writer can make her outer shell totally invisible, we the readers can find a way to enter into her soul and see the world as she saw it. Patti Smith achieved just that, and I could enter her world, which is so different from that of mine, and yet I could feel what she felt, and made me envious that some of her experience was not mine.
The book is about the life of two aspiring artist in NYC; it is about poetry and visual arts; it is about the life and politics of the 60s; but above all it is about a strange and beautiful friendship. A friendship that is almost impossible to fully understand and yet so pure and profound that it transcended beyond their romantic relationship, their artistic differences, their lifestyle choices, and their successes. It is about a friendship that is utterly nonjudgmental and without even a tinge of envy. Every single character in the book is full of faults, and yet so many of them come out as people with an aura of greatness. A greatness that is not a result of faultless perfection, but born out of chilling honesty and boldness with which they embraced life and their art.
The life they led is certainly not a life I would like to embrace or emulate. There are not even too many things that I can personally identify with on the surface. But somewhere deeper in their story is something that touched me very profoundly. They were a bunch of people who were never satisfied with what they did, and passionately pursued an elusive goal. It is this restless dissatisfaction that drives any creative process. There may be happiness in satisfaction and contentment, but that is short lived. Unless you can manage to lose all of your curiosity and creative urges you can never be satisfied for too long. Sustainable happiness can only come from perpetual dissatisfaction with what you create. It does not come from the end result, which is always less than what you expected, but from the process of trying to get there. Paul Valéry, the French poet once said “a poem is never finished, only abandoned”. The book paints the trajectories of a group of people perpetually writing unfinished poems, and living behind a brilliant trail for us to admire and enjoy.
Older Comments (4)
1. Abhijit Sarkar said on 4/20/13 - 11:25AM
A review so transparent and lucid it makes one dearly want to read the book.
2. Kunal Sen said on 4/21/13 - 03:48PM
Thank you, Abhijit. I think you will like it too.
3. Jagriti ruparel said on 4/22/13 - 11:25PM
If you recommend! I read!
4. Snehal said on 5/1/13 - 11:33PM