/world of midgets
We used to say that with ten clowns you could take over the city. It was Paris, the 80s, when for some reason a handful of artists came together, painters, writers, magicians, clowns, and created a new Golden Age, an artistic movement centered around the street theater scene in Beaubourg and Saint Germain des Près. Later, the clowns would become the lead acts in Cirque du Soleil, so high was the level of talent, and I would end up writing screenplays with Roman Polanski and making films. But this was before any of us were known, when we were still struggling on the razor's edge of meaning and purpose, when the magic was still around every corner.
AN EXCERPT FROM WORLD OF MIDGETS: If I came to Paris to be Henry Miller, to prove, somehow, to myself, to the world, that it is still possible to live a life of meaning, unique, free, inspired, then so far I have failed. But I have not just failed myself. There is a death wish in the air, an entire culture of death, ICBMs pointed east and west, and the sense that someday, someone, out of boredom more than anything, might just push the button and start the fireworks rolling, and nobody would even really care. There’s a cult of destruction, a reveling in mediocrity and ephemeral fashion, a visceral rage masked by disposable moments, changing hair and skirt lengths, trendy dances and sports: it’s the legacy of the Industrial Revolution. What is really worth saving?
That is where the artist comes in, that is his relevance in these dark times, this is where I have failed. You can’t blow up a world in which Beethoven is possible, Mozart is possible, Cezanne is possible, Dostoyevsky is possible, Nietzsche is possible, the city of Paris is possible, Muhammad Ali is possible. You can’t destroy a world which is capable of such beauty, such glory. You cannot destroy a world that demonstrates, despite all the suffering and injustice, all the cruelty and stupidity, that there is light, there is generosity, there is ecstasy ecce homo, there is hope. The failure to write a proper book, is not just a personal failure. It is a failure to rise to the heights, failure to approach the stature of those who have demonstrated that life is the miracle it is, those enlightened, luminous beings who are the antidote to death culture, to a vision of humanity with its feet mired in the mud of Hades, to industrial slaves toiling in eternal servitude, to meaninglessness, heartlessness, absurdity.
January 1, 2000, a Shinto monk fresh off the plane from Japan delivers an ancient, world-saving scroll to the UN, only to discover that on January 1, the United Nations is closed. Wise in the ways of the universe but unschooled in the ways of New York, the monk, the most balanced man in the city, manages to attract all the most-distracted, least-balanced people around: Chrissie Luna, the metaphysical makeup artist with the ticking biological clock, Reverend Y, the African-American ex-heavyweight contender turned spiritual leader of the Church of Apocalypse, Profanity-Allowed, and Karl-Heinz Retter, the suicidal Swiss dwarf dog-walker with dreams of world hegemony… The prophecy said that the scroll would be unveiled when the time was right, when things couldn’t get much worse. The question was, how much worse did they have to get?