My good friend and co-conspirahort, Mr. Webster, assures me that lunacy is but extravagant folly, and I for one . . . (if you use contiguous skin cover instead of avoirdupois as a measure) . . . will happily invest in wild foolishness at the drop of a Mardi Gras bead.
Searching For Sugar Man and its subject Sixto Rodriguez are amazing on so many levels. His music was singable and powerful, great to many who heard it, but it couldn't break through and become broadly popular in the United States. Dylan already occupied that niche, had already gathered that population of fans.
Instead, incredibly, Sixto’s songs, his CDs, catch on like wildfire in 1970s South Africa where people are suffering under the tyranny of apartheid. A large group of people there need a voice, a poetic rallying cry that symbolizes their frustrations and dreams, and Rodriguez speaks their language. He becomes hugely famous in that country and never knows it. As we watch, we find in Rodriguez a man genuinely worthy of admiration. A man able to live the values he espouses. Humanly holy.
And as writers, painters, singers, musicians, many of us hope to well-represent our values and the people we respect, the situations or events that inspire us . . . we want to do them justice. We want to place in public consciousness the vision we ourselves hold dear.
When we write about the mentally ill, we want readers to see how admirable people can be who live productive meaningful lives in spite of their personal difficulties, in spite of social stigma. When we write about troubled teenagers who have no adult they trust and who have to more fully develop their own inner resources, we are hoping readers see how amazing and admirable at-risk youth can be.
Along with astonishment, the predominant emotion I felt watching Sugar Man was humility. An artist like Sixto Rodriguez is not that common in our hype-filled, image-conscious, publicity-hungry world. Makes me hope to write my talk and live my write.
As for you, to paraphrase Steve Landesberg, honesty may be the best policy, but lunacy may be a better defense.