An Open Letter to Marilyn Manson

Dear Mr. Manson,

It's 10pm Saturday night, and my wife is asleep.  I'm making pancakes for her to eat with blackberry jam tomorrow morning on her subway ride to work.  While I waited for the skillet to get hot, I flipped through my little Moleskine notebook to see what I forgot to do today, and I saw the note "Love letter to Marilyn Manson".  I don't remember when I wrote that.

I'd been vaguely aware of your music up to 2003, my junior year in college, and I'd been vaguely enthusiastic about it.  I didn't know anyone in high school who really listened to you, or maybe as a result of growing up in semi-rural Maryland, all Manson fans were by definition closeted.  As you're aware, there is a certain stigma to you (probably intentionally cultivated, right?).

In 2003, I saw a show you did in Portland, Maine as part of your Golden Age of Grotesque tour.  I'm still a little vague on how a semi-fan like me wound up at that show, so don't ask.  The important thing is the understanding I gained about you and your music and your role in our culture and our history that summer night.

When I tell people about this show, the point I strain to get across is that within thirty seconds of you appearing on stage, smiling your greasepaint into those strobes, framed by Pogo and John 5 looking their beautifullest, we would have done anything for you.  I felt I, certainly, would have done anything for you, but all around me the tone of the screams and the joy on the faces were all echoing the same thing.  Seeing you wield mass alchemy like that helped me understand your music in a completely new and deeper way, and I went from 'appreciating' your music to loving it almost immediately.

As I grow older, I grow more and more concerned about how our culture moves from era to era and how it chooses what to remember.  Why did it take Peter Schaffer's semi-fictional book to cause our culture to remember Salieri, a millionaire superstar in his day?  Why did Bram Stoker die penniless?  I look around my apartment, at Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Transmetropolitan and Einstein on the Beach, and I break out in a cold sweat at the thought that these will all be forgotten, left unappreciated at the bottom of the list of works of art to be preserved in the next great "permanent" storage medium.  What's going to be remembered?  And will I agree with it?

Don't say that "all will be forgotten" because some things are not and never will be.  Everyone's decided to Remember The Odyssey.  People have bent over backwards to keep the original drafts of works by Bach and Shakespeare, but not most of their contemporaries.  Fortunes, lives, and marriages have been lost to retain a tiny, tiny sample of all the art that's ever been created.  Obviously we can't keep it all, but what is the rule for deciding what to keep?

But your music?  I think you've got a lock on it.  I think you are Indelible.  You are Important and Culturally Significant.  These are songs that reflect culture and project it.  You write about the minds of children and presidents.  You know that society has a heart that can love and hate and break just like a man's.  You know about the loneliness of the enthusiastic outsider and the fun of painful conformity.

And most importantly, like Wagner, you understand that the band and the singer must entwine their energies to become greater than the sum of their parts.  Identity and ego are blown away as Music Happens.

These understandings are the kinds of things that the residents of the Pantheon of Eternal Memory have in common with you.

I'm not drunk or on drugs.  I'm not Goth or Emo.  I'm a masters-level software developer from Maryland with a deaf cat and my own manicure kit.   I play jazz piano and the didgeridoo.  I just wanted to let you know that you've got my vote for Being Remembered.

Whatever that's worth coming from a hopeless fanboy.

Your Constant Listener,


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