What's a "mysterious negativity?"

by phil on Saturday Jan 10, 2009 8:24 AM

I stumbled across this bit from Gore Vidal's Judgement of Paris. It struck me in a way that I don't completely understand:

Self-consciousness often produces great art but I doubt if many find it a lovable trait, in others. The secret to wide popularity is a kind of mysterious negativity . . . something that can't be imitated.

You find a similar trait in zealot leaders. Sometimes when you hear them rattle on about some great new vision forward, you wonder if maybe they simply don't have the kind of awareness necessary to hesitate. For example, take a leader like the late Benazir Bhutto who died for the advancement of Pakistan. If she just read one book that made her pause and think that maybe the whole state-based carving up of the world is the problem, she might not have been such a good leader.

Oddly, this quote also conjures up an image of Eminem, who in the four years of his great albums, really dumped on the world. And then he stopped. I wonder if it's because he figured out why he was so angry, and was able to turn inward rather than into outward self-expression.

I forget where, but Maynard James Keenan of the band Tool was trying to explain that he was moving on in music, leaving behind his old—though successful—dark styles. He was really matter-of-fact about it, but he said something along the lines of, "you just eventually move on from your dark days."

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