Wednesday, June 10, 2009
"The only true currency in this bankrupt world... is what you share with someone else when you're uncool."
In a recent essay for Rumpus, Rick Moody confesses his dark past as a high school outcast. Ostensibly, this is surprising--though not necessarily a household name, Moody is very well-known in the literary set, and gained fame with his novel, The Ice Storm, which later became a feature film starring Kevin Kline, Tobey Maguire, and Sigourney Weaver. However, those who know writers and other creative types pretty well will tell you that most of us share a bond stronger than art--we were all tragically uncool in high school.
The main focus of Moody's essay is about Bill, a band composed of Bill Gage, a man with Down's Syndrome, and his brother John, whom Moody was friends with in high school. Moody sets the stage for his discovery of this band by describing his group of high school friends: a motley and eccentric group of outcasts that others called a "cult." They were fused together in their loneliness and creativity--talent that gets automatically labeled "weird" by teenagers everywhere.
I was, of course, uncool in high school, as were many of the most awesome people I know. The only thing that kept me going was my band of friends--like Moody's "cult," we didn't have much in common except for that subliminal quality that set us apart from the popular kids. We converted the small yearbook room at the back of the library into our headquarters--we monopolized the school newspaper, yearbook, and drama club. Nearly all of us were in band or orchestra, and on Friday nights, instead of partying, we made movies.
It all makes me wonder if being labeled "different," being jeered at, laughed at, and torn down is what makes great artists great (I am by no means implying I am a great artist. But at least I have some imagination.) This isn't to say that those popular kids won't go far--they will. But without that special brand of angst only found in lonely teenagers, we wouldn't foster the kind of introspection and pain needed to create great art--or some of the best friendships of our lives.