Dickens and Prince
There's been a lot of writing but not a lot of publishing on my end for the last bit of time. So I've decided on a blog reboot to start, focused on a book that inspired some thought for me, and may for you too.
This is a short book by Nick Hornsby, an essay to be honest, focused on the remarkable productivity of these two geniuses, unparalleled in his experience. Their creative frenzy likely came from some combo of harsh childhoods and inner hyperdrives but their working at such high levels of brilliance and speed created such massive bodies of work that could take a lifetime for anyone to fully absorb and appreciate.
It also killed them, both dying in their late 50's because of how they neglected their health to maintain their frenetic work pace.
As it turns out, I've been round both their hometowns recently, which made my connection to the book more personal. Minneapolis was part of a baseball stadium pilgrimage last summer, and though there's no evidence he was a Twins fan, I'm sure the George Floyd tributes throughout the city would have resonated (reverbed?) with Prince. We know this through his more than 40 albums, including the dystopian and racial justice undercurrents of the lauded Welcome 2 America. It had been recorded at Paisley Park in a rush of days in 2010, given planned tour dates, then shelved for his own reasons as was most of Prince's work (said to contain thousands of unreleased songs), and released posthumously.
That's what it means to be a crazy productive genius. You have so many masterpieces you hide some away in your vault.
Rochester was part of a more recent daughter pilgrimage to England, and though there is a massive and somewhat spooky castle overlooking the town, Dickens casts a longer shadow. Plaques abound on the ancient buildings through town, citing their use for Miss Haversham's mansion in Great Expectations or the corn exchange in A Christmas Carol. Christmas markets were set up everywhere we went on our trip but many of them were upscale, charming but more for looking than diving in. In Rochester they added a carnival, bringing in the masses on the weekends for the rides and funnel cakes that are a gift in any season. These were Dickens' people, those who couldn't afford a book but could shell out for a broadsheet serial, and who appreciated both a good time and the rarity of it for the working class.
We went on a Tuesday so missed the party. But after a delicious high tea in a shop overlooking the thousand-year-old cathedral we descended on one of the dozen or so candy shops lining the main cobbled street, we had our fun too. And though Dickens himself led what seemed most days to be a tortured existence, flogging himself metaphorically to write more, do more, even walk more (including the 30 miles from London to Rochester on one aggravated occasion), he also was driven to partake in an abundance of pleasures.
You'll have to read the book to find them out 😉.