Wednesday, May 10, 2006

david lipsky, will you be my mentor?

The incomparable David Lipsky, writer and Rolling Stone editor, emailed me recently. (Imagine the nerve of this man--taking the time to offer hope to wannabes everywhere.)

Here's the story... The first version of my blog still hangs frozen in cyberspace. (I've actually forgotten the password, though my friend Andy Martello might joke that it's "iLuvLipsky.")

I'd titled the journal space: "David Lipsky, Will You Be My Mentor?" I don't quite know what I was hoping for. I can't imagine what I expected, but it was nothing akin to the help this talented man would later deliver.

When I was 16, I'd first read Lipsky's wonderful article "Impossible Dream" in US Magazine. It detailed the life and death of Rent creator Jonathan Larson. I literally carried that article in my pocket for 5 years until it started to fall apart! I xeroxed and carried it for another 2, until I lost somehow lost it.

I was devastated. Every writer has an article or a book, something like that... Something they cherish- some standard they measure themselves and everyone else against.

So that first blog of mine still includes the same plea that I had posted on this blog, up through Christmas. 'Can someone please find me another copy of Impossible Dream?!'

He's emailed me several versions of the piece, including editorial notes and his own recollections on the genesis of story. Check this out:

I think this is a nice example
of how a piece comes together. I'm a huge Liz Phair
fan, and when I really liked a song of hers I'd tried
to get hold of as many demos as I could. It's also a
pleasure to hear a demo -- a confusing pleasure, since
the notes don't tick and follow the line you're used
to. And though demos are fun to listen to, they don't
tend to be an improvement over the final, shapely
thing. As the writer of the piece, my heart is with
the opening of Larson4. As a professional, I
understood and admired the changing and shaping that
produced 10, and accept that it's probably better.
And I'd bet you, in your readerly persona, are always
going to prefer the finished draft, the first one you
read. What to me seem like better ideas will sound
to you like false notes, like wrong turns that were
usefully not-made, en route to the piece you know.

His most recent book is Absolutely American. Intertwining stories of disparate personalities who attended West Point in the years leading to 9-11, Lipsky accomplished something truly amazing.

He made the prospect of war- the life of a soldier- engrossing.

Lipsky's eulogy for Larson.

RENT book, by David Lipsky.

Jonathan Larson's Great Expectations, by David Lipsky.