Friday, December 09, 2016

Marc Spitz, "Poseur"

This is my second review this year of an autobiographical bildungsroman about an artist struggling to succeed in the music industry in New York City (the first being Moby's excellent autobiography).  In both cases, the city itself is the main character in the story, where a picture of a bygone city is captured in vivid detail during its transformation in the 1990's.  Both authors struggle to find their way in a fog of substance abuse, self-destructive behaviour, and depression.  There's even an odd bit of convergence of their stories, where Spitz backs off from dating a girl because she'd been linked to Moby, and even becomes paranoid about the techno star stealing his crushes.

Despite the many similarities, their writing styles couldn't be more different.  Moby is an amateur storyteller, albeit a very good one, who recounts almost everything with nostalgic colour.  Spitz (whose book was published in 2013) has carefully honed his hipsterism over time, worshipping at the altar of countless great writers.  He's always on the bubble between trying to write the next Great American Novel (or play) and infusing the spirit of Lester Bangs (and the rock and rock lifestyle to go along with it).  Luckily for him, he got to do a bit of both.  

Even though Moby was born just four years earlier than Spitz, he's part of a totally different generation.  Moby's NYC is firmly in the pre-gentrification era, it's closer to the Wild West than anything one would recognize today,  Spitz's experiences hit closer to home for me because he's from my generation musically.  Moby was reared on late 70's punk and new wave.  Born only four years later, Spitz is firmly an 80's kid, bred on the Smiths, Cure, and Depeche Mode.    

Two thirds of the book happens pre-SPIN magazine, before Spitz had a real career to speak of.  Nevertheless, these pre-1996 struggles and story after story "about nothing" are the highlights of the book.  It's usually not a pretty sight, but Spitz keeps the narrative moving with heavy doses of humour and self deprecation.  He's astonishingly self aware and constantly critical of what he did and how he treated other people.  In the hands of a less gifted writer he'd come off as insufferable.  Nothing is romanticized, and it's clear that he's not encouraging anyone to emulate his behaviour, but he managed to function and interact with a fascinating array of characters (and many celebs), despite his troubles there's plenty to be envious of.  His is a story well worth telling.  

His success as a writer and playwright only makes him more unhappy.  He gets to interview many of his musical heroes and even befriends some of them.  Eventually we reach the happy ending, although not the one that's implied on the back cover of the book, where he seems to find love and live happily ever after.  In fact he ends up alone, content to soak in the city while walking his dogs.  But he's happy.  There was never one moment where he "recovered" and stopped being a drug addict and a major pain in the ass to his employers.  In his telling, he did nothing other than what we all do naturally and without even trying.  He grew up, entered his mid-30's, and understood that he had to leave all that behind.  No more chasing after the next cool musical trend, no more partying like a rock star.  It's real, and it's relatable.       

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