There are plenty of biographies about artists who “made it” – who have become famous, made a fortune, and whom we can use as a tableau to dream about how we, too, could be kissed by luck and get rich and famous. These fairy tales are not what Mickey Z.’s The Murdering Of My Years: Artists and Activists Making Ends Meet is about. Instead, Mickey Z. interviewed a group of artists and activists who chose to forego steady jobs and a “normal” way of life in order to make art, fight the good fight, and do what they believe in.
The result is an extremely interesting book about people who live and work beside the mainstream, who often struggle financially, and who have given a lot of thought about what living does and should mean.
It might go without saying, but Mickey Z. as well as his interviews explicitly count themselves among the US progressives – some might even place themselves on the radical left, although I’m hesitant to say this, as the American radical left always seems as most social democrat to me as a European. One interesting aspect of this that I found in the book was that many of the artists consider themselves on the radical left, but also oppose healthcare, subsidies, etc. In any case, the interviews, in which all of the sixteen artists and activists had to answer the same questions, are enlightening, sometimes funny, and always interesting (at least to me, someone who has always dreamed of a parallel universe in which I was brave enough to become an artist instead of an office worker).
I marked the first part for myself to read again if I ever have to write cover letters or an artist self-presentation again. With so many artists introducing themselves in relatively few words, it is a treasure trove of getting ideas for this purpose.
This book contains so many interesting tidbits and opinions, and makes it perfect as a conversation starter. For example, it led to an interesting discussion between my partner and me about whether capitalism can be considered justified slavery:
My politics are democratic socialist, though most people believe I’m an anarchist, because I dress extremely poorly. I oppose capitalism, which seems to me justified slavery.
Sparrow, in Mickey Z., The Murdering Of My Years, p. 10)
Or this one:
Survival without succumbing to all the pressure out there is in itself a form of activism.
Richard Miller, in Mickey Z., The Murdering Of My Years, p. 85
Another question I wrote down for myself after reading the book is whether globalization is a new form of imperialism – this is something that I still have to dwell on, since it seems a bit like a truism to me but maybe there are more disputable aspects to uncover.
All in all, The Murdering Of My Years was a super interesting book that I would recommend to everyone struggling with adjusting to a world in which all that seems to matter to many people is work and success.
Title: The Murdering Of My Years: Artists And Activists Making Ends Meet Author: Mickey Z. First published: 2003