“Dark Secrets”

“Dark Secrets”

Stellar profile of my Arbus book in the Daily Beast, by fabulous poet/journalist Olivia Cole.  Go HERE.

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3 thoughts on ““Dark Secrets”

  1. Hi, Mr. Schultz. I’m an Elliott Smith obsessive who just wants to wish you the best of luck with your biography. Do you have a title for it yet? I was thinking a good title would be WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A PERSON. Just putting in my ten cents. Take care.

  2. Oops, you’re Dr. Schultz. Sorry. I want to say that I just finished Tiny Terror. You addressed and disarmed all my misgivings about “psychobiography.” I think it’s the word that turns me off. I have read and loved some other books in the Inner Lives series without even realizing they were “psychobiographies.” Maybe psychobiography should be implicit in every serious biography. I liked TT– can’t say “enjoyed,” since much of it was unpleasant. I even like your writing style: the last paragraphs stayed with me for days. My library has the Arbus book on order, and I’ll read that too.

    Anyway, I am completely confident that Elliott will finally get a biography that is worthy of him. Not that Nugent rush job (although I believe Nugent made a sincere effort to write a good book– he just didn’t) or that coffee table thing where all his friends bent over backwards claiming Elliott was really the life of the party. (Wasn’t that part of his depression, that he turned himself into a clown to keep from bumming out everyone around him? He even addressed that in songs like “All Cleaned Out” and “Stained Glass Eyes.” Did his friends ever get it?)

    I’m ashamed to admit that I got into his work only a few months ago. It was like being hit by a truck. He was/is a major, major artist– at least equal to Lennon, McCartney, Dylan, and Brian Wilson, and he may have been better. The beauty of his music and the insight of his lyrics astonish me. His “failed,” “bastardized” guitar playing is difficult and original. His fragile choirboy voice breaks my heart. I even love hearing him talk. I almost have a crush on the guy. He’s very much alive all over YouTube, and for all his neuroses and eccentricities there was something so endearing about him.

    When you become a fan after the fact, you have to face up to the circumstances of his death, and it’s almost overwhelming. It’s like experiencing Beatlemania and John Lennon’s murder simultaneously. It’s an emotional roller coaster. No wonder ES fans are so weird and damaged (well, some of us).

    I don’t want him to be the patron saint of depression (even though I sometimes think of him that way, and I should know better.) But his thoughts on depression are crucial to an understanding of it and cannot be ignored. He seems to have written a song for every shade and phase of that illness. I don’t believe for a second that he was murdered. His demons had at their source only one demon, and it was the one that killed him.

    If he had lived to be 40, he could have gotten past his drug phase and worked through his childhood issues. He would have become increasingly more famous, and he would have learned to deal with that. He would have been able to be the amazing person he was meant to be (he did very well as it was) and been ready to live a normal life (quote unquote). What a tragedy, but what a life story.

    You asked a while ago if there was one ES song that seemed to sum up ES. He was so brilliant he has at least one song like that on every album. Currently I have been listening to “Christian Brothers.” I know he liked his songs to be vague and ambiguous, but here is my take on it. I hear it as a sequel to “Roman Candle.” The abused child in the first song has himself become an abuser. The title alludes not only to self-medicating booze, but to the “caring” organization that encountered a scandal in the 1980s for sexual abuse of children in one of its orphanages. Elliott would have been well aware of this. The song sounds like one long hallucination in which the person who was abused by “Christian brothers” (and may be some sort of CB himself) is drunk and lonely, is torn between past and present, is trying to sort out fake and real concern. Sometimes he is talking to his abuser(s), sometimes he is talking to himself, sometimes he is talking to the person he is about to abuse. He is tormented and begging for understanding from the very person he is about to hurt. The wisdom and compassion of all this is breathtaking. Only Elliott could have written it. I think he should have opened his second album with it and stuck “Needle,” no pun intended, somewhere else.

    I have blathered on long enough. Take care, and keep up your excellent work.

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