Madness, Genius, Torment

I’m fascinated by the tortured, twisted biographies of so many creative types (not that I have a great deal of time to read extended biographies, but my websurfing habits lead me to encounter vignettes fairly often).

Today’s Writer’s Almanac has a little biography of Allen Ginsberg, born this day in 1926, and an excerpt from his poem Kaddish. Mental illness up the family tree. Ginsberg came to terms with being a very “out” homosexual, but he was tortured earlier in life with perceptions of antisemitism and addition to the burden of very eccentric parents.

Coincidentally, the New York Times today also has an obituary for “poet and Ginsberg muse” Peter Orlovsky. Troubles by the number, heartaches by the score. Booze, drugs, anything but monogamous.

Falling somewhat short of torture and torment perhaps is the life of E.M.Forster, author of Passage to India, which placed him at the top of the heap of British novelists, but also marked his virtual withdrawal from further publication during the rest of his life. Here’s a little attempted insight into the backstory (titled “A Closet With A View,” should you want a hint).

I could go on, but my day job beckons.

Speaking of “day jobs” and shifting a bit, I puzzle at times about the neural connections behind the scientific and engineering careers of many excellent amateur musicians I know. And don’t forget Russel Crowe’s unforgettable portrayal of a mad mathematician and game theorist in A Beautiful Mind.

Okay, I’m in a university town, and the university is a Land Grant school with an Ag and Engineering emphasis historically, so that’s anecdotal. So’s the tortured gay artist impression. But they’re my anecdotes, on my blog, and I’m stickin’ to ’em. (Insights welcome just the same.)

And I’m adding creativity to the list of things I don’t understand, saying a heartfelt Kyrie Elieison for these folks who suffered mightily, transgressed commandments quite openly — and made our lives richer.