Let The Great World Spin

So I’m sitting in a hotel room reading this book thinking it’s just too good to be true.  That’s the nature of memoirs today.  They’re made up.  Like that guy who wrote Andre Agassi’s book, J.R. Moehringer?  The tennis player tracked him down because of J.R.’s memoir, "The Tender Bar"…  A good read, but would you apply for a job at "The New York Times" in a bloody shirt?  Don’t you think it would be so important that you’d change? Especially if you went to Yale?

I think so.

Which is why I don’t believe so much of "The Tender Bar" and didn’t believe "Let The Great World Spin" was true.  Too much coincidence.

Then I learned it wasn’t.  That it was a novel.  Which impressed me. Because if you can create it out of thin air and it reads real, you’re quite an artist.

Speaking of thin air, that’s the device.  The whole book is set around Philippe Petit’s walk between the now deceased twin towers.  Have you seen the movie, "Man On Wire"?  Not quite as good as the legend, but still very interesting.  Especially what happens after he’s arrested.  You can stream it on Netflix.  Fire up your iPad!

And there’s this great scene in the book where Petit is practicing in Colorado and he jumps off the rope into a pile of virgin snow that’s so deep he’s locked in to the point of near death.  I doubt this was real, but I loved it. The joy of jumping into the snow, the fear of the consequences of messing with Mother Nature.

But I haven’t been sure I could recommend "Let The Great World Spin", whose real title is "Let The Great World Spin: A Novel", you’d think I’d have caught that but I was so engrossed in the words I didn’t look at the title after I began reading, but now that I’m two-thirds through it’s coming together.

And I could wait until it’s done to make a final judgment, to render a complete opinion, but there was a quote in the book today that was so marvelous, so right on, that I just had to tell you:

"Everything perfect’s got a flaw."

The context is not really that important.  Tillie, a prostitute, is talking about her pimp, who had a crimp in his walk.  But the fact that it’s about something physical…  What’s that analogous aphorism…  Your imperfections make you beautiful?"

Somehow we’ve lost the plot in America. Everybody’s trying to fix themselves.  They scrub away everything that makes them unique, that makes them lovable.

Whether it be Jennifer Grey erasing her nose or Leeza Gibbons doing the same thing, you end up looking just like everybody else, instead of yourself.

And it’s not only people, it’s music too.  Yesterday I heard "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" on the radio.  I still wince at the line "I knew we was falling in love". And Paul McCartney used the wrong tense on that Beatle album and…you just can’t forget it.  The imperfection reveals so much.

McCartney’s not afraid to leave in the mistakes.  I think that’s part of what makes "Band On The Run" so great.  But everybody else is.  And now technology allows you to squeeze all the imperfections out, to our detriment.

The main complaint should not be that auto-tune allows anybody to sing, but that people are no longer allowed to sound normal, to sound real on record.  People don’t auto-tune themselves in regular life, why should they do this on record?  It actually distances them from the audience.

You can’t stop looking at the flaw.  Just like you can’t stop looking at a great performer.  Because he or she is just a little bit different.  If you saw Rod Stewart in the beginning, back in ’71, you’d have become a fan overnight. The way he strutted, the way he fell back and caught the mic just before it hit the floor and bounced back up like one of those ducks you see dipping its beak into water in those Times Square novelty shops…

Actually, those shops are mostly gone now.  Replaced by chains.

Chain restaurants make the same meal everywhere.  I can see the appeal if you’re in the middle of nowhere and want edible food, but there’s no character in that.  We want to go to a restaurant that takes chances with its cuisine, that titillates our taste buds as opposed to giving us what we want.

Your flaws make you unique.

And being unique makes you a star.

There are other great lines in "Let The Great World Spin".  Like:

"He was just another snotnose trying on the poorman shoes…"

I went to college with the rich and privileged but everybody jockeyed to appear poorer than the next.  "I can’t afford it."  "My father’s a bank president and I’m broke."  Huh?

This is like people being proud of getting less sleep.  The "Wall Street Journal" did a study, turns out everybody lies, but why is it a badge of honor not to sleep?  I don’t know about you, but I function so much better on a full night’s rest, and isn’t it about the work product as opposed to protesting that you’re burning the candle on both ends?

"They say boys always want to be the first with girls, and girls always want to be the last with boys."

That’s self-explanatory.  And true.

"my younger brother who sparked people alive…"

These are the people we want to know, the straws that stir the drink.  It’s not about naked ambition, it’s not about a need to be famous, rather it’s a weird blend of charisma and energy.  You just feel better when you’re around them.

That’s a real star.

And these stars don’t all look like they came from the pages of a magazine. Some are fat, others too hairy.  But we get a bounce in our step just thinking about hanging with them.  They make our lives better.

A good book makes our lives better.

And great art inspires.

You don’t want to replicate it, but use it as a jumping off point.  The same way Suze Rotolo inspired Bob Dylan to write "Blowin’ In The Wind".  Sure, he was ready, but his flame was ignited by her background, her energy. She didn’t look like a movie star, but without her, we wouldn’t have "Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right".

It’s truly a great world out there.  As Sly Stone once sang, everybody is a star.  That’s why people are drawn to Snooki.  She resembles a troll but she embraces it as opposed to trying to be something different.

If you want to have success, embrace who you are, warts and all.  That’s a much better road to follow than trying to be like everybody else.  And the odds of triumph are much higher too.  We don’t want somebody just like everybody else, that’s just people in suits trying to save their jobs, real artists aren’t worried about losing their jobs, they can’t, because being an artist is a lifelong pursuit that you cannot deny, no matter how hard you try.

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