If I'm so smart...
As I grow older and wiser but not richer, I find myself mulling over that old retort "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?" And I ask myself,
"Jeff...Sorry, I had to get my attention. That sometimes happens when I'm talking to myself. I realize that my unexpected shout must be disconcerting to others on the subway.
Anyway, as I was saying, I ask myself,
"Jeff, if you're so smart, why aren't you rich?"This has really had me puzzled, but I think that I've now figured out the reason. I'm not so smart. If I were only smarter, I'd have realized this long ago.
I used to think that I was quite smart because I was eccentric . . . like Glenn Gould being eccentric. He was eccentric, and smart. I'm eccentric. Therefore, I must be smart. Pretty stupid of me, to draw that hasty conclusion, but what do you expect? I'm not so smart.
But it's true that really smart people are eccentric, right? They've got smarts, which is another way of saying that their brains hurt, I guess. As in "Ow, my brain smarts."
Glenn Gould's brain smarted. And he made a lot of money in addition to making a lot of music. Oddly -- though appropriate for an odd person and thus not oddly at all -- he didn't make a lot of money from his music but from his investments:
Gould, a sufferer from extreme stage fright but a winner in the stock market, had quit performing in public 18 years earlier [than his untimely death in 1982], using the proceeds of his financial ventures to soften the burdens of early retirement.Or so says Bernard Holland, who has written a fascinating, smart if short article on Gould for the New York Times: "The Continuing Cult of Glenn Gould, Deserved or Not" (November 24, 2007).
In short, Gould got rich not from his skilled hands for music but from his smart head for stocks. If he had only survived his death, he might have gotten rich from his music, too. Bernard Holland implies that he did survive:
In death, Gould came to life.A neat trick. Holland explains:
Record companies that had not been paying much attention introduced great piles of discs into the marketplace, from big-ticket items of Bach and Beethoven down to the sweepings that Gould had left behind in the studio.Gould's untimely death was thus a timely, savvy career move. Maybe I should try that?
Brisk business was done over his body, and it hasn't stopped yet. A cleaned-up version of his career-making 1955 recording of Bach's "Goldberg" Variations appeared this year and is now prominently on sale.
Holland is also very smart, and writes lots of music reviews for the Times, so maybe he's also rich. I don't think that he's dead. I wonder if he's eccentric. He seems to appreciate Gould's eccentricities:
Tales of his personal oddities were a thriving spinoff industry. There was Gould bundled up for blizzard conditions in tropical summer heat -- indeed, he was apparently once arrested in Florida as a park bench vagrant.That sounds preferable to dying, so perhaps I should try that instead, not in Florida but here in Seoul next summer . . . except that mere eccentricity is not enough. I'd first have to be as smart as Gould. Why, I'd settle just to be as smart as Holland, who writes of things beyond my ken:
With Angela Hewitt's recent presentation of Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier" at Zankel Hall still in the ears, I have been going back to the Gould recordings of these preludes and fugues on Sony Classical. At a number of moments, Bach is brilliantly served. Gould's intelligent use of astonishing muscular control in the C sharp and E flat fugues of Book 1 gives separate personalities to two and three voices in simultaneous conversation, this on a modern piano constructed to make individual notes sound uniform rather than distinctive.I could never have written that except by copying it, word for word, like Pierre Menard rewriting Don Quixote and claiming it as his own in the fantasy elaborated by Borges, another very smart guy.
I wonder if Borges is rich. He was eccentric. And he is dead...