Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Van Gogh has tea with Tori Amos

Everyone knows about how genius and madness are so often linked. Especially, perhaps, creative genius, the genius of the arts -- though geniuses of mathematics and science get their share as well.

Vase with Twelve SunflowersTo borrow a page from Douglas Adams, suppose a pharmaceutical company could go back in time and give Vincent Van Gogh some antidepressives to see what he could paint during times he wasn't trying to cut any extremities off. I think most of us would be convinced the result would be the loss of some of the greatest art in history. And yet, perhaps one man would have had a happy life, notably devoid of self-surgery. If it were up to you, how easy would you find it to decide which is more important: one man's happiness or misery, and the contribution to the world of art that has beautified and inspired? For my part, I'd find it a difficult choice indeed. I find myself instead saying, thankfully no one was able to help him... and then feeling awful about it.

When I listen to the music of Tori Amos, I feel the same way, only it's slightly less theoretical. Tori is still alive, after all, and one can't help but wonder, if she got some therapy, rebalanced her chi, whatever it took, whether she'd be happier and less likely to produce heart-wrenching bits of musical genius (about one time in ten -- some musicians are more reliable, it must be admitted). Of course, I doubt I could get her cell number and say, "Hey, Tori, you don't know me, but I can recommend a good therapist," and cure all her anguish and self-doubt. And if I did, it'd still be her free choice (just like it would have been Vincent's choice to take the Prozac -- assuming you explained it to him first, of course), which essentially obviates me of any ethical responsibility.

But that avoids the question. Should I feel guilty about the fact that their agony is so pretty?


litlfrog said...

How much do we know about Tori's inner life? Her lyrics suggest exquisite torment sometimes, but how much of that disturbance is part of her day to day existence, and how much is purely created for her songs?

To complicate matters further, if you somehow knew of the miracle therapist for Tori Amos, it'd be easy to tell her. My Tori number (to use Kevin Bacon terminology) is 2; if I needed to get her an email to save New York or something, I could do so tomorrow.

HawthornThistleberry said...

Well, I've read that "Me And A Gun" is an exploration of a personal experience with rape, so I guess I feel I have to give her the benefit of the doubt.

IrishRedRose said...

Actually, in reading Vincent's hundreds of absolutely wonderful letters, my impression is that he was at his most creative when he was relatively stable. He was tormented and frustrated by his extreme highs--when he would frighten and drive away those he loved and wished would love him--and just as much by his depressions, which would make him suffer unbearable emotional pain--usually alone and terribly lonely. He got little work done at either extreme: and THAT was the worst part of all for him, because painting was his greatest joy. So, my humble opinion would be: medicate away. We would have MORE of his lovely work to enjoy now, not less. The productiveness of the tortured artist is pretty much a BS myth; at least, it certainly was with Vincent.