Love Letter Day X
This is not about Dolly Parton, though her refusing entry into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame and everyone’s admiration of this gesture have prompted me to ask this question:
Why would one resist being the inspiration for art?
Parton is refusing the so-called honor of induction to a trade hall because she says it is not her trade. I believe it’s something much more personal. I think she knows something about how awful it would be to join that club, or just doesn’t want to fraternize with specific people involved in the ordeal. The public thinks she’s being modest and love it. We could all use a little more public humility. But let’s be real. Isn’t it possible she’s just being practical? If I refused that kind of honor it would probably be because I found out I still have to pay $80 for the chicken dinner party where I get the certificate (which has totally happened in certain publishing industry events LOL what a tragedy…). And anyway the RnRHoF is refusing her request.
I’m thinking of the scandal of “The Bad Art Friend” reported in the NYTimes and then elsewhere, of people who inspired art (in this case a novel), or didn’t inspire it, and the legal conflicts of owning one’s story. I think of all the ex lovers who have sued artists for deriving precious material out of their relationships. They have leverage for cultural alimony of speculative memory. Isn’t art a worthy byproduct or is success too much a liability?
I heard Pachinko author Min-jin Lee in a 2018 WHYY interview with Mary Cummings-Jordan rebroadcast this morning on the occasion of her TV adaption of the same book. It was an amazing interview. I have avoided finishing reading Pachinko because honestly it just reminds me way way way too much of my mom’s family (based on everything I’ve heard and what little I’ve read). I don’t like feeling possessive about a family history I’d hoped to share in my own meaningful way, to honor my own special mother, but knowing someone else has done the job so successfully has been complicated. After listening to the interview, however, I am going to give the book a serious go. And to be clear: Min-jin Lee deserves 100% of her accolades of course. I’m just stuck in a weird nexus of “too close to home” and “why the fuck can’t I write this godforsaken book.”
Why would one resist being the inspiration of art?
Most of my career has been focused on giving voice to artists. I’m a really good publicist and I wish PR/publicity weren’t so looked down upon. I know it doesn’t help that we’ve been depicted as vapid sycophants, but to this I challenge you to gender break the stereotype. Most great publicists I know are actually men except they call themselves critics, and we have no problem accepting their insights on what qualifies as noteworthy art. So how do you think they found your favorite cerebral, reclusive, esoteric artists? I promise you, everything you have found was by design.
But I’m digressing because I’m hungry and can’t taste anything at the moment. What I’m really trying to say is that lately I think I have incurred too much praise as an advocate and am failing to understand what it means to inspire art. If inspire as a verb can be understood in its many different modes.
Maybe it’s a declaration rather than an inquiry. I know why you resist being named inspiration. But don’t resist being the inspiration for me. You have inspired my creation of me. I feel myself finally being the art.