Friday, September 01, 2006

Genius Is Rabid And Smells Like A Cat's Corpse

Andrew Barrow's book "Quentin & Philip" portrays Philip O'Connor as the archetypal bohemian hero: a rude, egotistical raving drunk who would suddenly betray his friends, who shouted down anyone who bored him, who went into ecstasies listening to booming classical music, who retreated to an attic room to scribble pages of incomprehensible poetry, who let his teeth rot, who (probably) smelled worse than a dead cat at the back of a wardrobe.

Barrow's attitude to O'Connor's excesses veers wildly between neutrality and loving admiration. In the past, I would have inclined towards admiration, reading about him; after all, he's not a million miles away, in his behaviour, from Gregory Corso, or even Kerouac in his later years. But presently, reading Barrow's account, I keep thinking, What a thoroughly obnoxious, ill-mannered and boring man. I'd much rather spend time with a non-genius, if they had good manners and consideration for other people, if they smiled occasionally.

All these malodorous geniuses can talk about is how brilliant they are anyway. Very few of them ever prove it.

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