One thing that has made my job reporting on David Bowie’s recent comeback is his absolute refusal to do any sort of proper publicity for it. He won’t tour or even grant interviews, But, as it turns out, a famous novelist has convinced him to say some words on what was going through his head. 42 of them, to be exact. And they’re not even organised in anything like a sentence.
American novelist Rick Moody, who published the novel The Ice Storm, and four other novels, and three short story collections I’ve never heard of, has somehow managed to persuade Bowie to comment on his album, after asking for a “work flow diagram” explaining his creative process. This may be why he broke his silence; after all, the NME only wanted something that might make sense. “Work Flow Diagrams” don’t have to.
Quoth Moody: “…I wanted to think about [the album] in light of what he was thinking about it, I wanted to understand the lexicon of ‘The Next Day’, and so I simply asked if he would provide this list of words about his album, assuming, like everyone else waving madly trying to get his attention, that there was not a chance in hell that I would get this list, because who the fuck am I, some novelist killing time writing occasionally about music, and yet astonishingly the list appeared, and it appeared without further comment, which is really excellent, and exactly in the spirit of this album, and the list is far better than I could ever have hoped, and it’s exactly like Bowie, at least in my understanding of him, impulsive, intuitive, haunted, astringent, and incredibly ambitious in the matter of the arts…”
This isn’t Moody’s first encounter with Bowie, as he recorded a new version of Tin Machine’s ‘I Can’t Read’ for the 1997 movie adaptation of Moody’s The Ice Storm.
The full list of words Bowie sent to Moody is as follows:
No word on why 42 words, it may be a reference to Douglas Adams’ Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, where the number is the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, the question being “what do you get if you multiply six by nine?” For what it’s worth, “Mauer,” one of the words on the list, is the German word for Wall, a likely reference to the Berlin Wall, and his time in Berlin in the late seventies getting strung out on heroin, and where he recorded his albums Low and Heroes. And all this raises a question? When did David Bowie become as enigmatic as the Residents? When did Ziggy Stardust become as secretive as a band so infamous for their privacy that they never go out without masks that look like eyes?