On the flight home from Belfast last week, I finished reading Exit Ghost, the new Zuckerman novel by Philip Roth. I didn’t enjoy very much of it, except for the scene of Zuckerman’s reunion with Amy Bellette, the woman brilliantly “fictionalized” in The Ghost Writer. It’s only in that episode that I really felt the weight of Zuckerman’s age, as he and Amy recommence a conversation they began 50 years earlier.
The rest of the novel — in which the narrator laments his lost erection as he fixates on a perfectly toned, slim, large-boobed, literary oil-heiress who has married a schlubby Jew — left me cold. At its worst, it degenerates into a bad standup routine: Zuckerman, isolated in the Berkshires for more than a decade, comes back to NYC and grouses about people using cell-phones. Fortunately, the character doesn’t have to fly anywhere, or else we could’ve been subjected to a rant about airplane food.
But I digress. Where the book did succeed for me was that one evocation of old age and loss, as characterized by Amy Bellette’s refusal to let the the love of her life go, though he’d been dead more than 40 years. And it got me thinking about how long I’ve been reading Philip Roth’s novels and how I’ll feel when he dies. Flying home, I thought, “I’m sure I’ll be sad, but I wonder if I’ll cry.”
I doubted that I would, and that got me thinking: Which living artist’s (writer, musician, actor, painter, cartoonist, etc.) death would move me to tears?
I’m having an awfully hard time thinking of one. There are contemporary artists whose work mean the world to me, but I’m not sure any of their deaths (provided they’re not killed senselessly or somehow incredibly fittingly) would make me cry.* I’m trying to puzzle out what this means, since some of the possibilities aren’t too palatable.
So I put the question to you, dear readers! In the comments section, tell me (okay, the world) “What artist’s death would bring you to tears, and why.”
(If you need to expand the field to include athletes, feel free.)
* I mean artists with whom I don’t have a personal relationship. I’m friends with a number of professional writers whose deaths would absolutely crush me. So no cheating and naming a writer who’s your dad or something.