Tuesday, December 18, 2007

his breakdown

I am still speeding along with Eugene Witla, who, after his breakthrough has a breakdown. His health, both physical and mental, is falling apart. He cracks under the pressure to be a genius.

And what mends him? Work. Regular labor in the salt mines, you might say. By watching and working with the masses, he slowly comes back to his senses. He decides to sketch one day and his working class mates are deeply impressed. He’s an artist! Slowly Eugene comes back to some idea of his old self by being back with the world, not just the art world.

Of course Dreiser doesn’t write it out quite like that. The journey is one thick book filled with innuendoes. But I recognize this bit of the journey because I, too, have sometimes cracked under the specialized, beautiful, elite but be-damned-pressure of the glorious art world. And I also I know what it is like for someone to stare at whatever I was drawing, while we’re on the time clock and muse gee, you really are an artist. What the hell are you doing here?

From there, Eugene is back on his way. He climbs a mean streak of one art director job after another, until he is running a publishing house – a huge empire, moneyed, full of beautiful and talented women, the best wines and country houses, the fast lane and fast cars.

His wife misses her artist though. She thinks he will someday return to making those big paintings which made everyone think he was a genius, instead of the very clever ad man he’s become. She brings it up, says she is saving money so he can go back to being an artist.

But Eugene wants nothing to do with that. He says the starving was just not all that interesting to him! - I think it’s more than that. The pressure to make brilliant art under big expectations and with no money was bigger than any advertising house.

10 comments:

m. said...

the genius is now beginning to sound very much like roark foil gail wynand ala //the fountainhead//...and indeed, much of what drives wynand's character is fear...originally of survival and later of the repercussions of acting publicly on his inner convictions...those inner convictions can be so very demanding, non...?

Anonymous said...

Oh, I loved that book. You could be right about the fear factor. I wonder how much that drives us now...?
E

m. said...

some people think that fear is the opposite of courage. i think for me, more precisely, fear is the opposite of trust, and that the more i trust in my own process of life, the more naturally it flows towards the type of life i take pleasure in living...

of course fear can be a healthy emotion, just like any human emotion; in point of fact, it can save our lives in the right situation...

but living all the time in fear with the 'what ifs' around every corner as many of us may have been taught to do...

or living with a deep-seated fear that has thwarted us from taking the path we were meant to take as the genius seems now to doing...

well, that's not really living in my book.

Anonymous said...

ah, m.
So much of my stuff is still driven by what ifs, in one way or another. Is it fear? I don't know. Maybe what if is not so much the proper phrase, but more like the Talmud: If not now, when?


E

m. said...

"if not now, when" sounds more like you reminding yourself that life is precious and, as far as we know in this incarnation anyway, finite.

seems healthy enough to me, but what do i know?

to a serious zen buddhist that thought is probably either the root of unconscionable evil or the key to finding enlightenment in the here and now, depending on how you interpret the edge of the underlying mental knife...

but wait a minute...what were we talking about again...?

Anonymous said...

or, you could all just carry on w you lives and let old eugene do what eugene wants to do...
wow, the fact that this man can do what he has done, and anyone can comment on it as if they had a relevent opinion...

Anonymous said...

Hi Anonymous...
You are aware that we are talking about fictional character, yes?
Art is up for discussion....

m. said...

god loves an anonymous poster with righteous indignation. flame on, anonymous. maybe it will get you an anonymous slot on saint peter's list when you die. to jog his memory, remind him you're the one who has no sense of grammar or spelling. that should narrow it down to roughly 95% of anonymous posters...

Anonymous said...

I know, it's funny. The links are there - it wouldn't have taken much to find out what we're talking about.
E

Eugenes lives!!! Long live Eugene!

m. said...

i'm splitting my sides here...even if he WEREN'T fictional i wouldn't necessarily find this conversation apalling...not altogether, anyway...after all, as good fellow geniuses, we only want eugene to realize his true potential, non...?