Stand in the Fire

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Nancy Nall has a very good and insightful post about the new biography of Warren Zevon compiled by his long -suffering (and suffering, and suffering) ex-wife Crystal, which was also reviewed recently by Janet Maslin and Tom Carson. His most glaring flaws, especially his vanity and narcissism (“When he died, his son had the job of getting rid of his porn stash; the videos turned out to be homemade and to star Zevon”), aren’t exactly unusual among gifted artists, but the specific details can be alternately appalling and amusing. I haven’t read it yet, but she seems like a reliable guide (“It’s hard to write about being an alcoholic’s wife without lapsing into one or two predictable slots — victim or fool. She doesn’t do that, perhaps because at some point she realized she had her own drinking problem, which she acknowledges, and what it took to quit. The tone is not one of pity-me but of clear-eyed, dispassionate truth-telling,”) so I certainly will.

What was most poignant to me in Maslin’s review was this:

But this lack of show-business artifice is precisely what makes the Zevon story so telling. What was even more unusual than his dark thoughts — like resenting the fact that Jackson Browne and Neil Young had lost people close to them and written beautiful, much-admired songs about those deaths — was his willingness to admit to those thoughts. On his deathbed, discussing the merits of having a funeral, he said, “I just don’t want to have to spend my last days wondering whether Henley” — Don Henley of the Eagles, who did not attend — “will show up.”

It’s amazing how status can make people envy and/or seek the approval of those who are (in terms of real accomplishments) their gross inferiors.

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