Death and Legacy

When Michael Jackson died, I was genuinely sad for about a day. After that though I just found myself enjoying his backcatalogue. I went out and bought more CDs, including one that spanned his entire career from Jackson 5 to his most recent work. I wondered why Invincible (his final studio album), a perfectly wonderful pop album, didn’t receive a bigger reception when it was released. I wondered too what it was about death that made us reflect upon an artist’s works, and why living artists were only as good as their most recent offering… What could we, as artists, do to better represent not just our most recent work but our entire repetoires?

When John A. Keel died, or rather when I found out about his death a week later, I became very ill. It was some time later that I brought myself to reflect on his life and death. As I sat there musing over the first Keel book that fell into my possession, the book that spurred a passion and an obsession, something occurred to me that had never occurred to me before. That first white covered trade paperback movie tie-in edition of The Mothman Prophecies did not have the elaborate cover artwork of other editions or the feel of the hardcover first editions. But there was something special about it. Something that confused me at the time and something that I promptly forgot about after encountering it for the first time. The paperback edition had an Afterword penned by Keel in August 2001. This effectively meant this edition of the book contained Keel’s most recently published thoughts.

An unexpected consequence of my need for information on Keel’s death was that I discovered a book that I didn’t know existed. The Best of John Keel is a compilation of articles Keel wrote for FATE magazine. The book arrived from Amazon this morning. (Interestingly it is described as ‘Volume 1.’ I wonder if subsequent volumes are planned?)

I guess the conclusion I have reached is that in a practical sense these people are as real to me today as they have ever been, because my relationship with them has roots in their works and their works live on beyond them. And I guess the impetus to actually create has never been more apparent to me. In the same way that you can’t edit a blank page, you can’t be remembered for a work you never completed.

2 comments… add one
  • Thank you for making this about John.

    This posting of yours here and your other one regarding your initial discovery of John A. Keel’s works truly convey the warmth, intrigue, and affection that my old research buddy and friend was able to inspire in people ~ through his writings, his personality, and the combination of those two that would result in the stories he spun.

    Many of his old associates from the 1960s celebrated when John was able to break into the “Hollywood” scene, not so much for the little money as a writer that he got out of it, but more as a final acknowledgment of his far-reaching impact in popular culture. The movie, his books, and his articles will live on, long beyond his life.

    It was great to read your good words from Australia. That you would understand, on some level, how many of us so close to him have been feeling about passing of John Keel on July 3, 2009 was enlightening.

    Thank you.
    ~ Loren

  • How beautifully said. Those who do leave their artistic works behind for us are such treasures–I’d never really thought about creativity as a gift you give to humanity (well, if you’re John Keel or Michael Jackson) but it’s true.

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