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All Content © Mil Scott                                                                                                         www.artistinsane.com

Welcome To The September
                Issue of Mil Mania!

` Volume 2, Issue 8, September 2006


Music Mayhem    

As noted in the December ‘05 edition of Mil Mania, I will continue to include news in every issue to keep readers up to date on the latest happenings with the three acts most prominently featured on www.artistinsane.com.  In addition,  for each issue I will also choose one additional artist — in some cases a new discovery I’ve recently made, in others an individual or group whose work I’ve long appreciated — to make a one-time appearance here.  And, of course, as with all aspects of Mil Mania, feel free to offer suggestions.


This month’s featured artist: 


Darling Cruel

     In thinking of some
thing different and inter
esting to offer readers
this month, I’ve decided
to revisit a group who,
sadly, released only one
album (though they re-
corded a second which has never seen the light of day).  That album, however (entitled
Passion  Crimes) is one of which they have every reason to forever remain proud.  For, although it was never a huge seller among mainstream music fans, as frontman/pianist Gregory Darling’s bio points out, it nonetheless “sold well on the underground amongst ‘a dedicated group of psychotic listeners’, hooked by the sheer quality of the song writing and playing.” 
     Yet another piece of evidence supporting the value of insanity.

     I actually discovered Darling and his cohorts during one of many late-nights I spent watching MTV back when they actually played music videos — tiny pieces of art I’ll admit I enjoyed immensely.  And, I still distinctly remember the night the eerily dramatic opening strains of “Everything’s Over” caught my attention at 2AM — and Darling’s (albeit somewhat amusingly over the top) theatrical presentation held it for the song’s duration…continuing to do so for the few additional times I was privileged to catch it again...and later again and again and again until I think I literally wore the VCR tape I’d saved it on to nothing but celluloid spaghetti — much to my chagrin.

     I can see before me even now the dimly candlelit castle wherein the cheating damsel dwelt, and the jilted lovelorn hero who roamed brooding through its Phantom of the Opera-like chambers.  And, I can’t help smiling as I write this at the sheer joy of the memory.

     Vintage MTV aside, the drama of the music itself was — is — beautiful, evocative and captivating...not to mention set off perfectly by Darling’s Earth’s core vocal depth and stratospheric range that frequently surprises with a delicate falsetto.  The addition of nontraditional instrumentation, such as the balalaika among others further add to the creativity and intelligence of this impressive collection of songs.  No wonder Prince chose to jam with the band on stage one night.

     Furthermore, although I’d heard nothing of Darling in years, for the purpose of this article I looked him up again on the internet — and discovered he’s indeed still making music...and has his own new album, entitled Shell.  You can check him out (sans his former black mane) for yourself here...


     And, you can buy the album Passion Crimes by visiting amazon.com — where used copies are available starting at something like 3 dollars.  Trust me, it would be a “crime” to miss out on this “passionate” CD at that — or perhaps any — price.



Third Eye Blind continues to work toward completion of their fourth full-length album of new material.  In the meantime, the group’s guitarist Tony, has been keeping in close contact with fans — including offering both an early potential track listing for the tentative 2007 release, and MP3’s of instrumental tracks that were considered and discarded.  Go to this post from The Village Churchyard for more details.

Brian Fitzpatrick recently posted a blog on his page at myspace.com with some very good news about his upcoming music plans.  Here’s an excerpt...

     “So it looks like I will start recording a new record sooner then I thought. Do I have the tunes? No. Do I have the musicians? No. Do I have a producer? No. But in the tradition of just going with my gut instinct and flying by the seat of my pants, I have decided I will start soon. It will be a much different record then any of my previous efforts, that is certain!”
     If you’ve heard his prior work I’m sure you’re as certain as I that the result will be incredible and well worth the wait, whatever direction and personnel he chooses for this particular journey.  And, I for one, am greatly looking forward to the finished product!!!

Michael McDermott’s birthday celebration concluded successfully thanks to the help of his myriad supporters...and if you’re one of those I again extend my own thanks to you as well.  You can check out the unveiled surprise here — an object Michael himself noted was “just incredible” and a part of his “best birthday in years.”! 
     In other McDermott news, the new album is still scheduled for an early 2007 release, and Michael continues to play shows in various parts of the country previewing material from it. 
     And, of course, he continues to debut new songs on myspace.com every week as part of his Monday Morning Musical Madness.   So, if you haven’t been
there recently, go now!

Ravings of a
          Mad Woman

This column corresponds with the Mad Ravings On section of www.artistinsane.com, and is dedicated to selected reviews of movies, television and books… most of which are unlikely to represent “the latest” in any of these categories, but rather a  random selection that represents a new and/or noteworthy discovery to me.


    I saw the film Wicker Park (named for a district of Chicago) several months ago and enjoyed it so thoroughly I vowed immediately to write a review of it for my website.  Of course, as other deadlines, commitments and matters needing attention delayed my getting “around to it” (despite having long since acquired precisely that item as you know if you’ve read the October 2005/inaugural issue of Mil Mania), I never followed through on that promise – until now.
     What’s more, it’s the fact I’ve literally not seen so much as one movie in the past month (and that Molly’s column already includes a book review) that’s sent me searching my memory for a worthy film to bring to your attention here and has brought me “around” at last “to” completing this task

     As most of the reviews by others I’ve read point out, I should probably state up front this isn’t a film whose appeal is based on plausibility – at least one of these reviews further notes (quite accurately) that the entire matter could have been resolved with just one call...provided either of the characters needing to make it used a cell phone.  But I’ll get to that part later. To start in the middle (like the film itself), the bulk of the plot takes place two years after the relationship between Matthew (Josh Hatnett)  and Lisa (Diane Kruger) ended…though we learn early on that the specter of the latter has clearly stayed with the former through a move to a new city (and back)… and a subsequent engagement.   And, while we learn very soon that the two parted under “mysterious circumstances” that in itself creates more than a few plausibility questions for the viewer – i.e. if one of them just disappeared wouldn’t someone have alerted the police?  I mean, what exactly are we talking about here?

     Well, we’re not really talking about a mystery, at least in the traditional sense, so much as a misunderstanding – or rather a series of these, past and present, many of which are helped along by a third party we gradually come to learn is acquainted with both of the protagonists, although clearly a friend of neither.

     The matter of the cell phone as raised earlier pertains to the fact that, throughout the course of these misunderstandings, attempts are indeed made to resolve them – and it’s an interesting plot contrivance on the part of the writer that both cell and land-line phones are used…the timing of each, of course, proving a key obstacle in preventing any resolution from occurring before the film would logically end…despite repeated teasing possibilities as circumstances place the characters within inches and seconds of each other without their ever meeting up.  What’s more, written communication in the form of at least two very important notes is thrown in for good measure – and still the seemingly destined love seems fated to elude…again despite the additional fact one of the notes includes a “key” key to lead Matthew right to Lisa’s door – or then again, maybe not.  And, it’s in contemplating the manner in which these straightforward and what one might think foolproof communications serve instead to fool nearly everyone – at least for a time – that one starts to think as well about the nature of lovers themselves…the distance between the things they sometimes want to say and the ones they actually do, the mixed signals they sometimes (inadvertently or knowingly) send, etc. – many, of which, ironically, are so easily read by those on the outside looking in.  Toss into the mix the madness of unrequited love turned obsession, and all the ingredients are in place for plausibility to indeed be at last tossed right out the window, and the survival instincts of an animal in pain to take over as events quickly begin spiraling out of control.  Hmm…maybe there’s a method to the madness of the plot’s “implausibility” after all…

     Regardless of whether that may be giving too much credit, I still firmly believe this is a much better film than most reviews you’re likely to read about it imply…though I’ll give Roger Ebert several points for the following observation, “Once we understand the principle (if not the details) of the plot, "Wicker Park" works because the actors invest their scenes with what is, under the circumstances, astonishing emotional realism.”  Exactly…and therein lies the point.  Out of what may seem at first so many unnecessary (physical) complications we come to feel the (internal) urgency of these characters wending their way through the unimaginable places they’ve ended up…or rather, the various colliding mazes out of which they can’t imagine ending up anywhere they really want to be – yet through which, driven by love, infatuation or desire, they keep fighting to maneuver.  And, most confusing of all (from a “logical” standpoint, I suppose) this is a fight to both stay inside, as well as to break free of, the walls within these mazes they themselves have built. 

     As I noted in my May review of The Fisher King, I must reiterate here that “whether all of this sounds intriguing to you or not, every movie (or book or other piece of art) depends on much more than ‘what it’s about’; to determine whether it will occupy a lasting place in your consciousness as a long time favorite – or a forgettable waste of two hours time.”  And, while the “what it’s about” in this case may on the surface seem not merely “much”, but entirely “ado about nothing”, the wonderfully mood-filled atmosphere, strong performances – and clever use of classic literature’s echoes…such as a play within the play and a slight twist on Cinderella – make this (for me, anyway) two hours time well spent.  That said, I encourage you to pay a visit to Wicker Park yourself…and see if you, too, don’t leave haunted by the images of a true and timeless love – as well as by these memorable lovers and their friends, all of whom in this “play” play a very big part...or two. 





(If you haven’t met me yet, you might want to read the Dec. issue first.)


     Before I get to my usual madvice, I simply have to say a few words about the book introduced by a reader in last month’s issue  Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien.  As you know I was asked once what my favorite books were and didn’t really have much of an answer as I hadn’t then yet scampered across all that many titles featuring rats in a positive light.  Oh, my, how that has changed!  Needless to say, I was incredibly excited to learn of this book’s existence from this reader – and even more so when it arrived from her in my mailbox a few days later -- with a written inscription noting I needed “a copy of this treasure”.  Thank you again to “A Musing Mona Lisa” for that gift!

     What’s more, in very quickly delving into the book with my adoptive mom, she began to marvel as we went along at just how accurate my speculations had been regarding why Mrs. Frisby was treated well by virtue of  both “who she knew” and her own subsequent actions.  And, I was a little surprised myself, I must admit, at how well the Sophistic theory from Greek drama I’d mentioned really fit into this story, too.  For, while the book indeed showcases that the risks of acting for the good of others can have dire and very sad consequences for selfless individuals, it points out again and again how much more dire they might be for their loved ones and so many others if they’d chosen to act differently.  Plus, of course, it illustrates out how much trouble those acting “by nature” to their “advantage” can cause for both themselves and countless innocents swept away by the ill motives of their black hearts.  And, it does all of this by creating and helping us get to know the most full and memorable characters one could ever hope to find.

     Like the reader last month, I don’t wish to give too much away for those of you who might choose to run out and get your own paws on this book, so I won’t add any more information about details than she has already…which are surely enough to tempt you to peek between its covers, but not enough to spoil any of the beauty or magic from its fantastical – yet very real – world, or its inhabitants. 

     Unfortunately, the poor human who wrote it way back in 1971 has since passed on – I would have quickly started putting my paw to paper for a note of appreciation to him otherwise – but, I have since learned that his daughter continued his legacy – and that of Mrs. Frisby and the rats of  NIMH by writing a sequel (two, in fact), so I may have additional comments about this matter in a future column.  And, having done a bit of digging to see if there might not be even more such positive rat tales out there, I found yet another author who wrote positively about my species in a book indeed called simply “A Rat’s Tale”.  Hmm….maybe I should start a rat friendly reading list!  And, of course, everyone in my readership is invited to help me out.  So, please do!

     Now, on to this month’s question…


   “Dear Molly, 

     The other day, while thoroughly enjoying my routine morning cup of New Orleans’ Café Du Monde coffee—the bitter chicory within sets it apart—I abruptly shifted my focus from the mess of papers, clippings, notes, receipts and bills strewn across the dining room table that so desperately called for my attention.    My ears tuned into the AM deejay’s one-year anniversary commentary on Hurricane Katrina.  The bit was a rebroadcast of his observations at the time she unleashed her wrath.  My heart grew heavy listening to his soliloquy on the immense loss and havoc.   In defense I began sifting through a collection of recipes attempting to give them some order.  The deejay’s impassioned voice snapped me right back when he said something on the lines of what can one do when “Hope is not an option?”  “Hope is not an option?” I repeated the thought out loud.  I struggled with the thought as his discourse wound down.  I savored another sip of my coffee with more awareness of its bitter bite enveloped by the coffee’s rich flavor.  I countered this absurd thought by saying in such dire straits giving up Hope is not an option!  Molly, I couldn’t let go of the idea of what some humans may feel Hope is.  In the deejays’ assessment, Hope seems to be a tool, perhaps—however, not a viable one?  Is that it?  A dormant force only available for specific intentions, or is it a living breathing essence ready to be sent and received?  Can we borrow it, buy it, steal it?  Surely you have a perspective on the matter having been abandoned, all alone in the world.  Perhaps you’ve even nibbled on or admired a chicory plant while outside?    It’s striking that an herb that is so harsh at its root can produce such a serene, willowy flowering plant.” 

                                                               Gale Force Hopeful One


     It certainly is understandable, Gale, that you’d feel heavy hearted listening to such balderdash...I must admit I kicked the aspen shavings on the floor of my aquarium so hard in disgust upon reading this doom-embracing human’s comment, my poor surprised boys lounging atop a nearby box went scuttling for cover.  And, I can’t help wondering if this weakling wouldn’t just give up the ghost if faced with even so much bitterness as that you encountered in your first sip of chicory tinted coffee.  I once heard an expression of intended insult that asks “Are you a man or a mouse?”  Clearly that is an insult...to such amazing creatures as Mrs. Frisby and her late husband — both of whom acted out of a courage founded in, yes indeed — hope. 
     By the same token, I think this particular hu
man DJ (which in this case perhaps stands for “dopey jughead”?) is serving his listeners very poorly by sending such misguided opinions over the airwaves...God forbid one of them should find him/herself in a precarious, perhaps even life threatening situation, and think back on this human’s nonsense.  Where would Mrs. Frisby be if she’d bought into such a lie?  Or her children?  Or Jeremy the crow?  Or the rats of NIMH?  And, of course, where would I or my children be if I’d done so? We wouldn’t — be, that is.  Can you imagine?!?!

     Now, don’t get me wrong...I’m not saying hoping’s easy — or that we can’t be tempted in dire situations to give up...or that it always results in the outcome that we want.  But that doesn’t remove hope from our list of options...it merely becomes a matter of whether or not we choose to embrace it….and how tightly.

     When I think of hope I automatically think of one of my adoptive mom’s favorite movies, The Shawshank Redemption.  And, every time I hear the word itself, I hear Morgan Freeman’s beautiful voice intoning it — “I hope...I hope.” 
     I think the hu
man you heard speaking on the radio needs to watch this for himself.  Because it shows the clearest picture one could paint of both giving up hope — for a time — and hanging on to it for all one’s worth...and how choosing to do the latter can remind those who may have ceased to realize it just how viable an option hope had always been in their own lives as well.

     If you haven’t seen the movie, you might want to stop reading right here and come back to finish after you’ve had to chance to scoot off to the video store and rent it for yourself.  Otherwise, you already know that the character Red had indeed long since stopped allowing hope to be an option — cutting it off intentionally at all those parole hearings where he spouted the mock-sincere, rehearsed speech about being a changed man...which he himself thought a pile of smellier garbage than that any self-respecting wild rat would settle for on even the leanest of nights  — and which he was not at all surprised failed to impress the people at the big table up front who had the power to give him what all inmates supposedly hope for.  Red, you see,  had no such hope at all.

     Then Andy’s influence began to work on him.  This poor creature who had been married to a cheating hu-woman for whose murder he got blamed.  If anyone had reason to give up hope, so “normal” folks might think, it would be him.  But, Andy did no such thing.   Well, actually, that’s not true…

     Again, if you’ve seen the film you know that Andy’s hope reaches its height when a young inmate arrives who, having been in another prison with the real killer of Andy’s wife, proves willing to testify and win Andy his release.  But, when that plan goes awry, Andy’s hope indeed goes with it.  Contrary to what Red thinks that means, however, Andy’s hope didn’t go away.  It merely turned direction — and took a step up to faith instead.

     And, that faith is what ultimately brought about a “miracle” — one helped along by work, determination and a hugely hopeful human spirit — a miracle that gave Red his own hope ...which likewise one day converted itself to a faith that brought about a very, very happy ending ….

     ...just like mine.         


                           Molly Madvises 

                      (by... Molly, of course!)








Comments from Mil Mania readers
          on the July/August issue...

In A Nutshell

   Is love an obsession?
       Is obsession a form of love? 
       Or is there only madness...

                                          As promised Mil
is now back to
                                   its regular monthly
                                   schedule.  And, it’s my
                                    pleasure to be able to
                                   share this new issue
                                   with you.  You’ll note,
                                   however, that it’s so
                                   jam-packed with arti-
                                   cles there was no room
                                   left in which to fit the “Newsletter Spotlight” box normally appearing just to the right.  Having already settled on its topic before making this discovery, I’ve therefore decided to use this intro area to “spotlight” a few words on the passing of Australia’s Steve Irwin, “The Crocodile Hunter”.  While I’ve never been much for reptiles I must admit, I was nonetheless a huge fan of the obviously genuine passion that characterized his life and work, and with which he inspired audiences.  As his fellow wildlife professional Jack Hanna pointed out after Irwin’s passing, he exuded an enthusiasm so contagious he could make “a bug or a twig” or whatever other normally mundane object he was showcasing “exciting”.  What more appropriate place, then,  than my little corner of “insanity” in which to honor such a “madman” and his tireless efforts on behalf of
wildlife conservation.  “Crikey”, will this bright and engaging figure be sorely missed!

     Of course, I hope you’ll enjoy the mix of info and articles I did find space for in this publication, and as always look forward to your reactions to any or all of them.  I also hope you’re enjoying the start of a lovely new fall season —  which just happens to be, in fact, my favorite time of year.

     Thanks again for reading!


  Writings From The Asylum

                                  The Leap to Limbo (tentative title),
                                Chapter 10   “Another Morning After”

     “I don’t know what to say, man,” Chris offered when Josh had finished relating the events at the diner the night before.  They were in Chris’s apartment, Josh sprawled on the floor watching his friend’s pet rat, Henderson, run to one end of the couch, peek out from the cushion and run back to Chris for attention.

    “So, I realize I’m being dense here, Josh,” Chris mused, the spoon from the cereal he was eating poised over the bowl midway to his mouth…a circumstance Henderson took full advantage of by delicately grasping a piece between his teeth and quickly running off, a trail of milk drops following.  Clearly practiced in this ritual, Chris mopped the milk from the tan leather and continued with his question.

    “What exactly is the problem again?  I mean, you and Tommy have been at odds for a while over the whole record deal thing, but who cares if he went out on a date or two with Allison.  It’s not like they’re getting married or anything – or like she’s cheating on you.”

     “Yeah, yeah, I know.  I’ve already told myself the same thing about twenty times an hour since leaving the diner.  I just – I don’t know, it was just that few minutes the other week….it was just something so good…so short, so not even out of the ordinary in any way – well, for anyone else, I suppose.  Just good.  I guess I just wanted to own the moment or something…”

     “You did. You do.”

     “Yeah, but it’s all different now.  It’s like when you read a great book and you love every word, and you can’t wait to get back to it whenever you have a few minutes between the bullsh-- of your day...and then you get to the end and it’s nothing like you’d thought it was gonna turn out and it totally sucks.  And, you suddenly start to hate all the rest of the book ‘cause it doesn’t even make sense anymore, and what difference does it make if it did, ‘cause it’s all ruined now.  And, you basically wish you’d just never wasted your time reading it in the first place when you could have been, I don’t know, cleaning out the fuzzy green things in the back of your fridge or something.  It just sucks.”

     “Yeah, well, that’s life.  It pretty much sucks most of the time for real, so why shouldn’t the art that imitates it suck, too.”

     “Gee, thanks.  You really know how to cheer a guy up.”

     “Ah, come on, Josh.  You could take a couple of lessons from Henderson.  He gets up in the morning, stretches, yawns, crawls to the top of his aquarium and waits for me to go pet him and give him breakfast.  He doesn’t fret about why he’s alone or what the weather’s gonna do today, or how to achieve world peace – and that’s not because he’s stupid.  Rats are actually among animals with the highest intelligence on the planet.  But you walk by and your shoe squeaks, they jump like they were born with Tourette’s.  Because they all have this innate sense of where they are on society’s food chain.  So, they just accept every day and every kindness as something wonderful.  And, surprisingly, 99 percent of the time they’re happy.  Because they own their moments.  And, they don’t worry about where their book’s gonna end.  They can’t.  ‘Cause odds are for most of Henderson’s relatives out in the big world, it ain’t gonna be an ending they’d write. And, maybe this isn’t the ending you’d have written for your book, either.  But come on, I mean you’re 28 years old.  Why does it all have to fall into place now?  This is just a dark twist in the plot.  Your book’s far from over, dude.”

     “How do you know?  Julie was only 24.”

     “Yeah, well, her book wasn’t finished, either.  She just closed it.”


     Back from Chris’s place, Josh closed the door to his own apartment, pulled off his jacket and tossed it on a nearby chair.  Entering the kitchen to grab a beer he noticed the answering machine light flashing and punched the “Playback” button.  He immediately regretted doing so as Tommy’s voice greeted him, his tone uncertain, though utterly non-confrontational, as he asked, “Hey, Josh, you there?  I just — uh — you’d already picked up your stuff from The Rock when we got back —.  We left the diner pretty much right after you did., but…  Anyway, I guess we’ll talk...?  I just wanted to make sure everything’s...okay —. Well...later, man.”

     Josh sighed wearily and shook his head as he hit “Delete” and the machine moved on to the next message.  Expecting Tommy’s characteristic follow-up, he was already gazing into the refrigerator, the machine almost forgotten when he was brought to full attention by the sound of a feminine voice instead. 

     “Hi, Josh...it’s Allison.  I know that was kinda weird last night and I — I don’t know what to say.  I mean, I only went to the movies with Tommy...we’d been talking at the diner before Julie...before...well, anyway, we’d just been talking about different  actors and stuff one day and I said, ‘Have you seen this’ and he said, ‘Have you seen that’ and it just led to going to see stuff together a couple of times.  It wasn’t like — you know...ah sh—.  I don’t know what the hell I’m even saying, or if I should be calling you or...  I just...I thought we kinda — connected — the other week, you know...and I feel even weirder about that than I did last night, but...you know I loved Julie to death….Je—s what a way to put it…that’s not what I meant...I mean, it is, but... 

    “Anyway, if you want to talk or whatever — or not, I just wanted to say something...to let you know...you know.  I don’t know.  Yeah, that made a lot of sense.  Uh, I’m gonna hang up now.  I hope we can talk again — sometime.  Bye, Josh.”

     Josh waited as the machine went silent, then pulled out the beer he’d been looking for, grabbed an opener off the sink and popped the cap into the trash.  He took a long drink and let the icy liquid make its way down his throat, his face inscrutable as he digested the blur of thoughts and feelings washing down alongside the alcohol. 

     Taking another sip, he started toward the couch, pausing at the answering machine just long enough to hit the button marked “Delete”.   He hit “Save” instead. 

     And, though he was aware he hadn’t done so by mistake, still he walked away far from sure of that conclusion.



As introduced in the first issue of Mil Mania, this column shares the latest chapter in a novel I’m writing to present here in serial form.

“Please tell Molly I absolutely loved her 
   response.  I actually just re-read it a few
   minutes ago.  Got my wheels turning…”



“I wanted to say I got your newsletter ~ 
   and read the  continuing [Joshua Gray]
   story.  It's still so interesting...”  


“Found your article about flying a hoot!”



“I'm interested in hearing more of your mu-
   sic! What's on your ‘space’ is beautiful!”

Text Box:         As always, feel free to drop
                 by  my “space” at


Temporary Insanity








You May Think I’m Crazy -- But That’s Just It...


     In Hamlet Queen Gertrude implores the verbose Polonius to speak “more matter with less art” — advice which proved most sage at the time. Four hundred years later, however, it seems Shakespeare might cringe upon realizing just how misapplied this phrase has since become.  And surely he would join me in declaring that this is ”not to be”.

     Ever so soon after discovering my professional aspirations are all of an artistic bent, I began being gradually introduced to the realization that not all artistic endeavors are motivated by truly artistic concerns...and that not all individuals engaged in “creative” endeavors are truly artists.

     What I at first failed to realize, however, was that the shamelessly non-artistic individuals on the commercial side of this equation might attempt to pass themselves off as anything more.  After all, having achieved their mercenary goals and enjoyed a great measure of what they term success, I figured these individuals would remain content to continue on their way while allowing the less “successful” true artists to continue likewise on theirs.

     This heretofore comforting illusion was finally shattered somewhere around midway through a writing course I took, when the administrators sent me as required reading a book by the less-than-famous, yet two-time Pulitzer Prize winning Jon Franklin, entitled Writing for Story.  And although I must admit that the two-time Pulitzer Prize winning part prompted me to delve into the text eagerly thirsting to drink from his obvious fount of knowledge, I became skeptical only two pages into the Preface where I read of Mr. Franklin’s dismay as a young man in finding that all writing books he encountered “made a point of saying that while writing was a craft, it was also an art -- and ultimately either one had it (whatever ”it” was) or one didn’t.  The clear understanding was that if you didn’t understand what they were driving at, you didn’t have it.  By that measure I sure didn’t”

     Indeed he didn’t.  And having now completed his book, I am convinced he still doesn’t.  But in finding himself unable to join those who do, he seems to have comforted himself by deciding to try beating them instead.  For never have I read a more pointed attempt to drive home heretical teachings than Mr. Franklin’s book.

     After taunting his readers for 187 pages about the alleged “Secret” to writing what he calls ”creative” nonfiction -- in other words the artistic “it” he claims never to have discovered -- at last he reveals that “there is no secret beyond knowledge and experience; writing is no different than... performing surgery, flying an airplane or climbing a mountain.  It is a human endeavor and the skilled professional...is one who has mastered the techniques and then accumulated the experience necessary to know when and to what purpose each technique is to be used.”

     “Stories are nothing,” he continues. “The process is everything.”

     Hmm... To a technical writer, maybe.  Not to an artist.

     Still, even these denials or misunderstandings of “it” might be dismissed as merely harmless fodder for debate were it not for the comments set forth in the book’s final chapter entitled ”The Nature of Art and Artists”.  Here an imaginary young artist and would-be writer is presented, and his tortuous path followed, pitting what Mr. Franklin calls “art” against technique.  Ignoring completely the potentially peaceable union of these two, he revels in the moment his young artist surrenders his ignorance, which Mr. Franklin (apparently as a result of his own ignorance) refers to as ”artistic purity”.

     Note the joy with which he relates the transformation.

     “He’s growing up, you see, and his manuscripts keep coming back.  He doesn’t know what to do and he must do something or he’s going to end up washing cars for the rest of his life.  So he takes one tiny pragmatic step away from artistic purity.  Artistic purity, though, is like virginity.  One step is all it takes.”

     Is it possible to miss the glee in this hopelessly misguided conclusion?  Indeed, his triumph seems so complete it conjures images of Satan at the moment he claims the soul of Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus -- a surrender, ironically, as needless as that of genuine artistic purity.

     I realize, of course, that to many seasoned professionals and Jon Franklin adherents in the industry, I am that ignorant young writer, and that my perspective may seem as misguided to them as his does to me.  I suspect all other (albeit quite possibly starving) true artists disagree.

     The point I am making, then, is that art -- be it writing, music, painting, whatever -- is not the same as surgery or tentmaking or flying an airplane -- although in the hands of a true artist I have no doubt these, too, can be elevated well above the mere technical realm.  And I’m certainly not saying that an artist can’t indeed benefit greatly from access to the right tools and knowledge of their use. Still, I am saying his or her real power comes from something much deeper, more significant, and far more elemental -- NEED.  What Mr. Franklin calls “it” to me represents just that -- a pure, inexplicable need to express love for and share our natural passion with those around us -- which is perhaps why “it” often keeps us up into the wee hours serving “it”, and is referred to even by “us” in sometimes the most negative sense.  For the true artist cannot escape “it” even though at times he or she may think that doing so might provide him or her with the very highest level of satisfaction.

     But lest this seem a somewhat alien viewpoint, I offer the words of Michael Shurtleff from his book Audition.

     “To go into [the arts],” he writes, “is like asking for admission to an insane asylum.  Anyone may apply, but only the certifiably insane are admitted.”  He goes on to explain that although only about one-percent of the artists he knew at the time of the book’s writing were actually making a living in their profession, its pull for so many of the others remained completely irresistible.

     So what does he propose as a solution?

     “Settle down and admit you’re crazy... When you find out what [the arts are] like and what the odds are, and you still persist, the proof of your own insanity is inescapable.  Accept it.  Most [artists] make themselves unhappy by searching for sanity, by insisting on normalcy; it’s a grave mistake.  The life of an [artist] is a bit easier to take if you admit you’re bonkers.”

     I have and indeed it is.  At least until individuals like Mr. Franklin come along.

     And so at last I appeal to any would-be creative writers or other “artists” out there who don’t have “it” to ignore Mr. Franklin and heed instead the advice of Mary Lyn Henry and Lynne Rogers (from their book How to be a Working Actor), “If there are other things you can see yourself doing that will bring you just as much happiness, offer a higher ratio of success, and demand less application, then by all means involve yourself in these activities.”

     After all, if you haven’t got “it”, at least you do have something else -- a choice...

     Not to mention one truly unfair advantage...











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