Friday, January 31, 2014

Staying power

I was listening to some of Paul Simon's music, which I first heard decades ago, and I realized I never get tired of it. Some of the music I used to like no longer resonates with me, but I find I can listen to "The Only Living Boy in New York" or "Late in the Evening" or "Me and Julio ..." without any loss of enjoyment. (Note: Some of my favorites were also with Art Garfunkel.) It's the same with the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" and "Can't You Hear Me Knocking." And with REM's "Find the River." And the Beatles' "Two of Us," "Let it Be," and "The Long and Winding Road."

All of these artists have made lots of music. Everyone will have different opinions on the staying power of their different songs, and different preferences for songs. There are plenty of other songs they've made that I liked, that I like still. But here I'm just talking about the ones for which I've had a steady affection, the ones that still give me a little pulse-leap of pleasure when I hear the opening notes, even after I've heard them hundreds of times.

It's partly that they are good songs. But for me, they also have a certain emotional resonance, and that will be an individual matter. Similarly, writers talk about how readers further shape our stories when we put them out into the world. We have no control over how they're received. It's special enough if they're liked and appreciated even for a short time. Even rarer are the books with staying power, the ones that get reread and passed along and republished, discussed and dissected, produced in dramatic form, that inspire retellings and fanfiction.

We send the work out there, and we don't know where it will land, or how long it will last. Our job is just to keep making it and sending it out there.

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