An entry from A Writer’s Diary by Toby Litt, published by Galley Beggar Press on 1 January 2023
Behind me I’m starting to wonder whether art – music especially – isn’t divided up, completely down the middle, into stuff for the well and stuff for the ill. What I mean is, all the fragmented and angsty and challenging art, the difficult to concentrate on or to bear – that’s for healthy folk. But when you’re fragile yourself, and exhausted or emotionally at the end, you’re not able to take this in. You’re going to want comfort and cocoon and easy listening and the predictable [ritual fulfilled]. And because most people are to some degree unwell, it’s not surprising that Schoenberg isn’t as popular as Andre Rieu. Modern art is still unpopular. When I was happy to listen to depressing albums, it was because I was basically physically okay. Now, I feel less inclined to. John Cale, ‘Thoughtless Kind’. I used to seek out the most emotionally fraught, the most collapsed records. Big Star’s Third, Oar by ‘Skip’ Spence, Leonard Cohen Death of a Ladies’ Man. That awful one about his brother’s mental illness, and hoping he’ll kill himself – Damien Jurado. ‘Medication’. With the beautiful girl looking to the side on the cover. Ghost of David. I think of Ian Curtis. I often think of Ian Curtis. I also think of the greatest moral lyric in all pop music: ‘ah cheep holliday in utha peeple’s miseree’. Were these all cheap holidays in other people’s misery? I often think of Syd Barrett, alone in his house in Cambridge. Actually I do. Those who’ve gone beyond misery and into nullity. It’s selfish, but what if you had a son like that?