Man, in my early twenties, I just couldn’t get enough of the Surrealists; I placed André Breton’s Nadja and Mad Love on the uppermost pedestal of literary meaning and feeling, and Salvador Dalí, was, of course, the most creatively edgy, yet still grounded, cat among the limited scene of artists I could name.
But now, I’m about a fourth of the way through René Crevel’s Putting My Foot In It, and I’ve got at least four possibilities, vis-à-vis how I feel about the Surrealist golden boy, floating around in my head: 1) this guy was simply overrated; 2) I’m just not profound enough to appreciate what looks like intelligent, yet old-hat absurdist commentary on The Establishment; either that, or 3) what was once scandalous and offensive is now just another “take” on things in a culture/s where pretty much anything goes, even if that attitude itself is in its own way narrow and calcified, and so the book can’t count as much as it once did on shock value to make its point; and/or 4) my literary tastes have just changed.
I’m guessing the truth, if such a thing applies in this situation, is to be had somewhere among 3) and 4). But that final possibility makes me wary of revisiting some of the books I once loved; I don’t want Nadja, for example, spoiled for me like The Three Amigos was once I went back and viewed it as an adult. What I’m dealing with, of course, in each case is almost too dissimilar for comparison, but there you have it: sometimes, you should let old favorites be, and keep the good feelings, the memory of those warm sentiments, they inspired, without being greedy for a repeat dosage.
Thankfully, I’ve recovered from the inadvisable listen I once gave to an album Chet Baker made in the ’80s, right before he fell out a window, filled with heroine and coke, to his death on an Amsterdam sidewalk. My craving to achieve some sort of unassailable credential in Chet-Baker knowledge and devotion, and to pack that badge chock full of pulls on the nostalgic heartstrings, overcame what I knew good and well was the reliable voice of instinct to just walk away. It’s taken years’ worth of concentrated immersion in the musician’s early stuff to get the sound of that cracked sadness out of my mind. (Sure, there’s the whole question of whether anything less than acceptance of Baker’s– or anyone’s– complete catalogue constitutes true fandom or not– but– here’s one benefit of age– I honestly don’t care.)
Well: I’ll finish the Crevel, but if it keeps on like it’s going, my guess is, I won’t be returning to investigate any further work of the boy wonder. It remains to be seen whether I’ll take up the possibility of going back for a second read of his compatriots (and/or others) .