Years ago I had a mild obsession with the band Guns N’ Roses.
I was just out of college, working a series of crappy part time retail jobs and needed someplace to channel my energy. For some reason I picked G N’ R for that purpose.
When I say I was obsessed, I don’t mean I turned into a groupie, following the band from stage to stage. I just listened to them incessantly and learned everything I could about Axl, Slash and company.
I knew their real names, where they grew up, the band’s history, early incarnations… everything a good little fan girl should know.
During that time I read a book written by the Guns N’ Roses road manager, Del James. It was a collection of short stories called The Language of Fear and included the story that inspired the song “November Rain” from the Use Your Illusion I album.
I don’t remember much about the book other than they were horror stories and pretty disgusting. But I can quote one line to this day.
I’m not going to repeat it here because it’s so disturbing and repulsive, but the line runs through my head, word for word, on a fairly regular basis.
It makes me wonder if the fact I can reel off that line almost twenty years after the fact says anything about the quality of the work. Is the writing great because it has stayed with me for so long?
Or was it simply so shocking that it was impossible to forget?
I can’t quote much of the work of the acknowledged masters. A line or two of Shakespeare, some Poe and Dickinson. Yet I can recite a vile line written by some guy who was probably only published because of his connection to Guns N’ Roses.
Does that memorable line make Del James a good writer? Or just mean that I’m too impressionable?