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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Posthumous Fame

Thanks to Vincent van Gogh, there is an image trapped in the collective unconscious of great artists who toil in obscurity only to be discovered moments after dying. The greatness of the artist's vision is verified by the lack of attention given to their work while they were breathing, and we all get to congratulate ourselves for being far more perceptive than our forebears.

It is a beautiful and solemn image, and one capable of inspiring both awe and pity. It is also an image that I would like to avoid.

In my high school yearbook, beneath my picture and name and in place of the accomplishments I neither sought nor accrued was a quote from Woody Allen. It read, "I don't want to achieve immortality from my work. I want to achieve it by not dying." As time has passed, I would also like to add this addendum: "I don't want to be a success after it is of any use to me. I want it now. Now, now, now, now, now."

I have no idea what posterity will make of my works. That's something that only time will tell, and I will be dead and, presumably, indifferent. I want the kudos to start now. I want the praise, I want the money, I want the fame. I want people to get that slight bugginess to their eyes when they see me. I'll gladly sign your book or other artifact. I will attend the events and accept the awards. I will gladly be magnanimous and self-effacing as people I don't know inflate my ego with unearned praise. I will make the fewest demands I can and shake every hand. I will be grateful for it, since it has happened so late.

As long as I am still breathing, I will be grateful.