“And I'm busting up my brains for the words”
American novelist and short story writer, Rick Moody, (possibly best known for his 1994 novel, The Ice Storm, which featured a specially re-recorded version of I Can’t Read on the film’s soundtrack) has successfully persuaded David Bowie to contribute 42 words for a “sort of a work flow diagram for The Next Day”.
Moody has used the words in an incredible 14,000-word critique, “produced in two short weeks”, of The Next Day for The Rumpus. If you have a fair few minutes to spare, you can read the whole thing over on therumpus.net.
Meanwhile, we’ll leave you with Mr Moody’s astonished realisation that he alone managed to get David Bowie to contribute something, anything, on the subject of The Next Day, followed by the 42 words Bowie supplied.
Now, Bowie, the artist who no longer has anything to prove, has indicated that he is unavailable for comment about The Next Day, because there is only the work, and anything beyond the work is sort of what this album is about, “The Stars (Are Out Tonight),” viz., in which a preoccupation with celebrity is some kind of devastated pathology, one with which Bowie feels oddly sympathetic in the song (and the video, which you have to see, because it’s like a little movie it’s so good), despite having formerly been a “star” himself. Onto the “stars” we project our confusions and desperations, onto the “stars” we project the lives we do not lead. Ergo, there is only the work now, and the silence is part of the work, the work is otherwise complete, the way it is complete with Thomas Pynchon, and the way it was with J. D. Salinger, but, that said, and I can hardly believe it is the case myself, I have somehow persuaded David Bowie to part with a few words on the subject of this album.
I mean, I persuaded Bowie, somehow, to give me a sort of a work flow diagram for The Next Day, because I wanted to think about it in light of what he was thinking about it, I wanted to understand the lexicon of The Next Day, and so I simply asked if he would provide this list of words about his album, assuming, like everyone else waving madly trying to get his attention, that there was not a chance in hell that I would get this list, because who the fuck am I, some novelist killing time writing occasionally about music, and yet astonishingly the list appeared, and it appeared without further comment, which is really excellent, and exactly in the spirit of this album, and the list is far better than I could ever have hoped, and it’s exactly like Bowie, at least in my understanding of him, impulsive, intuitive, haunted, astringent, and incredibly ambitious in the matter of the arts; Bowie is a conceptual artist, it seems to me, who just happens to work in the popular song, and he wants to make work that goes somewhere new, and this is amply demonstrated by the list.
What I propose here is that I use the list to make a few observations about the incredible excellence of The Next Day, as a way of explaining what I think he’s after, or as a way of collaborating with the ideas in play, and in this way will a really great album be illuminated, given the opportunity to blossom further, later into the season, etc.
So here’s what David sent me (and I should thank him for doing it, and so I fervently thank him here):