Life – Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Media Images and so on

Eventually this post will resolve into a minor point of media criticism. But it starts with…

I just finished “reading” the Keith Richards “autobiography” Life.

Whew, that was a lot of hyperlinks.  The word reading is in quotations because I listened to the audiobook rather than using a print copy (and the link goes to Stephan King’s thoughts on the practice).

Autobiography is in quotes because the book’s creation process strains the word “autobiography” without quite breaking it.

Overall the book was well-written enough to offer some insight into Keith Richards, the human being, despite the fact that it never quite escapes being based on interviews with someone who has spent years cultivating a very limiting media image (and potentially a limiting self-image).

For instance, the book manages to capture the contradictions and insanity of the junkie logic Keith still uses to defend his past addictions even as it also includes his protestations that heron is bad.

How much you will enjoy these ramblings may depend on your tolerance for an insightful portrait of a rock and roll star who defines a certain kind of “cool”.

Or more to the point of this post, the book conveys some of the depth and breadth of the complicated relationship Keith has with Mick Jagger (his co-song writer in the band the Rolling Stones), without actually spending that much time on it. It captures the sense of two men who have the capacity to create something greater than themselves even as they are weighed down by years of history and very petty infighting.

Certainly Keith comes out looking better than Mick in his telling, but again, the book is good enough that a careful reader will notice the broad outline of why Mick may not be the only villain in their story.

This doesn’t answer the question of why you should care about their petty infighting. But it does offer some insight into to how small it must be to have to be Keith Richards all the time.

The most limiting factor of the book is that it’s written by someone who knows in his media-savy bones that of all the nuanced, spiteful, loving, and childish things he says about about his relationship with Mick, the headlines will boil it down to a particularly juvenile penis joke.

If not that, then something like that was always going to be the cage. And it was one he played into. Maybe he did that to himself, and maybe it’s not a problem for him, but the willingness of the world around him to reduce and celebrate that kind of nonsense probably didn’t help to broaden anyone’s horizons.

I wrote the rest of this to give me an excuse to actively avoiding perpetuating the myth that the worst thing he says about Mick is that joke. Because the media seems to think it is, and this does a disservice to everyone involved. The book portrays the man as something much worse, and more nuanced, even within its severe limitations.

The book is a glimpse into the mind of someone who knows they live in in a cage made of gold and beauty and myth. But can also make music like this.

The Value of Publishing

“Anybody who likes writing a book is an idiot. Because it’s impossible, it’s like having a homework assignment every stinking day until it’s done. And by the time you get it in, it’s done and you’re sitting there reading it, and you realize the 12,000 things you didn’t do… And when you’re done, people tell you “Well, gee, I’m not interested.”

– Lewis Black

Everything I write is a reflection of me (yes – even a genre fantasy novel). The relationship may not be intuitive or straightforward, and it may not be the relationship you assume, but it exists.

Every author in some way portrays himself in his works, even if it be against his will.
– Goethe

Towards the end of Avoiding Space Madness, Darwin starts ranting about how hard it is to find a truly comfortable chair. This is a minor scene, but it does a few things. It illuminates Darwin’s temperament and history; it fills in some details about the world he inhabits, and it was fun to write. It’s a good solid piece of writing.

I wrote the first draft of it over four years ago, and I am no longer same author now that I was then. I would not disavow it, it is a scene that I fully stand behind, but my mind now understands that interaction in subtly different ways.

The last time I edited Avoiding Space Madness, I was tempted to cut the scene out. Not because there is anything wrong with it, but it’s no longer how I would solve the problems it solves. Alone that is an edit, but the ranting about chairs scene does not exist in isolation. Every part of the book affects everything else and I could not simply delete it without doing damage to the rest of the book. The problem is not the scene. The chair rant fits perfectly fine into the book I wrote.

The problem is that I probably would not write the same kind of chair rant anymore (instead I might write a sophisticated diatribe about lawn art).

Art is never finished, only abandoned.
-Leonardo da Vinci

To truly get at the heart of the changes I’ve undergone as a writer large parts of the book would need to be gutted and re-written. Which would be worthwhile if it would produce a better novel, but it wouldn’t. It would simply produce a different novel. And that novel is the one I am now working on.

At the same time I want to honor the book I wrote. Trying to work on the sequel with an unpublished manuscript in the same series in the drawer was apparently more trouble than it takes to just put it out into the world. So I did.

Part of the story is that I worked on and off on a sequel for a few years. But progress slowed and then stalled.  It didn’t help that every year or so I took a couple of months to go back and revise Avoiding Space Madness.

What it really needed more than anything I could provide, was a copy editor. Since I could not give it that, I kept flailing away at it with the talents I have, rather than the talents it needed. But when book 2 fizzled under the weight of my excitement for what I wanted to do in book 3 I knew I had to change something. Writing for me is a slow process, made slower by the fact that I actually enjoy my day job. It also requires a certain sustained passion for the story I want to tell. I need to care enough about what I am creating to write the boring scenes, to walk away from my partner and write for an afternoon. One day I had to admit to myself that I had been living with my ideas for book 2 for too long, and it had proven fatal. Time to move on.

Time to throw the dead weight overboard.

Putting any work out to the world provides a snapshot, a definitive moment captured. It is the final step in the authorial process.

More importantly, I was shocked to discover that nobody had registered and had to capitalize on my good fortune.

My first priority for any profits I receive from my donation button is to purchase and as redirect sites.