I will never forget the first time I read The Bell Jar. As Sophia from The Golden Girls would say, “Picture it… 1996… I was in a sunny apartment in Pipestone, Minnesota, and it was very early in the morning. I couldn’t sleep and I saw a copy of The Bell Jar laying on the coffee table. It reminded me of the movie Heathers; I’d always wondered about that book. Somehow it was never assigned to us in high school. I picked it up and began to read it and was instantly, instantly mesmerized. What is this? Who wrote this? It was as familiar as reading my own diary. I felt that however it ended would give me a good idea of how my life would go, because I was reading the words of my soulmate.
Needless to say, I was a little concerned as the book progressed. Things weren’t turning out so well for Esther…
Despite how The Bell Jar and ultimately, Sylvia Plath’s life, played out, I have always been inspired by her. She was the first person who made literary greatness seem attainable, the first person who was recognized for the kind of work I wanted to create. She made me believe I could be also be a great writer someday. The candor she expressed in her writing was a generous, inspiring gift to future writers.
Hearing Ryan Adams for the first time was a similarly transforming moment.
Can someone please give this guy a Pulitzer Prize? Sylvia earned one, but not until after she died. I’d like Ryan to have one RIGHT NOW. Can the Pulitzer Prize for literature be awarded for song lyrics? No? Why not?
I love and admire how prolific he is. For every perfect, heartbreaking song, he unapologetically produces a couple of dreary duds. It’s like the work he creates is a clearing of his mind and soul, and he gives us what he found inside, good and bad. He is constantly creating art, from music to writing to paintings. He is always going outside his comfort zone, unwilling to be pigeonholed merely as a musician despite his success as one.
Which brings me to James Franco…
James Franco will do anything. He is in this for his own entertainment, and he takes risks that most serious actors would never dare. When he approached the soap opera General Hospital about acting on the show, it was big enough news to become a story in the Wall Street Journal. He can be found encouraging people to save chimps with Kevin Nealon, hosting the Oscars, or doing pretty much anything else he wants to do. He doesn’t care what people think about him, and he has made that work very well for himself.
These three are immensely talented, brave, and inspiring. They risk offending people to be true to themselves, and in doing so, they create magic. It takes guts to do what you want to do, and grace to do it without hurting others. Not an easy balance, and no one ever gets it down perfectly, but these three, in their own ways, could teach us all a lot.