Saturday, September 27, 2008

"Genius and Heroin"

Michael Largo is the author of three novels, the Bram Stoker Award-winning Final Exits: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of How We Die, and last year's The Portable Obituary: How the Famous, Rich, and Powerful Really Died.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new book, Genius and Heroin: The Illustrated Catalogue of Creativity, Obsession, and Reckless Abandon Through the Ages, and reported the following:
On top position of page 69: there’s a typically curious sidebar of the kind you'll find included throughout the entire 369 page book—this one concerns creativity and self-destruction, revealing the fate, and suicide rate of writers who use too many I’s in their work, under a subheading: “Me, Myself, and I Writers.” (So start counting the pronouns in your writing to predict your longevity!) Taking bottom position on page 69, there’s a bio about the original fast and furious American writer Stephen Crane, and the making of his most famous book, The Red Badge of Courage. His first self-published novel Maggie, about prostitution, flopped, but Stephen was a passionate and obsessed man, eventually marrying the madam of a bordello, which, by the way, had one of the greatest bordello names in whore house history, Hotel de Dream. I am always interested in some telling details to learn what habits foretold of a “genius’” early demise. In Crane’s case, he could never stay put, and was a notoriously poor speller, saying he had no time to learn. He was right--with fountain pen to paper to the end, Crane was dead at age 28. In some ways his obsession, and what made Crane brilliant, is the same thing that killed him. In Genius and Heroin I hoped to make a reference guide that explores the paradox of an artist’s angst, that which prompts both inspiration and torment. Is personal agony a necessary component to being publicly immortalized? That’s some of what you'll get when you open to page 69—I hope you do.
Learn more about the book and author at Michael Largo's website.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue