Fame

Fame is merely advanced sentiment.

Each day I post a new Online MCAT CARS Passage. This is for anyone who wants to practice for the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Section.

Every article is selected to meet the AAMC MCAT criteria for MCAT CARS.

Subscribe by email to receive a new free practice passage each morning.

 

June 24, 2017 – Free MCAT CARS Practice

Question: What is your summary of the author’s main ideas. Post your own answer in the comments before reading those made by others.

“Fame is merely advanced sentiment.”

Eileen Myles wrote that line. If you follow contemporary American poetry, you probably heard of her years ago: she is the author of 19 books, has been a central player in the poetry community of downtown New York City for decades, is a lesbian literature superstar, writes about and collaborates with renowned avant-garde artists in other mediums, and has toured and taught all over the world. That said, she’s a poet, and even famous poets are rarely household names. Lately, though, she’s hard to miss: last fall, two Myles books were published: a reissue of one of her most famous titles, the 1994 novel Chelsea Girls, and a volume of new and selected poems, I Must Be Living Twice. She’s become a media darling, profiled everywhere from the Paris Review to New York Magazine and featured in not one but two articles in the same recent issue of the Sunday New York Times.

One of Myles’s earliest influences was Andy Warhol, so it makes sense that she seems to be approaching the sudden spike in her celebrity with a mixture of bemusement, scholarly curiosity, giddy enthusiasm, and Zen detachment. It is not lost on her that as a poet who has often written about fame, she is now as famous as a poet can get, and that this role is fraught. Famous people are of course the repositories for the hopes, dreams, and shames of the non-famous. Through depictions of their lives and choices—no matter how manufactured or one-dimensional the versions we receive might be—we see our own.

This is also perhaps the purpose of autobiographical literature: the Confessional poem, the memoir, the fictionalized account of a life we recognize as the author’s own, all of which are genres and styles Myles has played with over the years. Sometimes the reception of such a literary work generates fame for the author, and thus both the life-depicting work and the life itself are altered ever after by celebrity so that the art and the image are indistinguishable. This is the hall of mirrors in which Myles finds herself in now.

For example, Myles pops up in a recent New Yorker profile of television-show creator Jill Soloway, her current romantic partner. In the kind of meet-cute that usually happens only on sitcoms, Soloway had never met Myles until she began researching her as the basis for a lesbian poet-academic character, Leslie Mackinaw, for Soloway’s hit TV show, Transparent. The research led to a virtual crush, and after the two appeared on a panel together in Los Angeles, an actual relationship began. Although the New Yorker piece is about Soloway, not Myles, Myles has the last word in the piece: There is “the fiction of being alive,” she said, how with “every step, you’re making up who you are.”

In a conversation with Adam Fitzgerald for (Warhol’s) Interview magazine, Myles talked about Warhol’s impact on her generation of artists. “There were all these constructed identities, made-up selves. And even though my fake persona was my literal persona, I was constructing it. I got to New York in the seventies, and I remember looking at Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen—these are working-class kids from New Jersey—and I thought, ‘I’ll be a working-class kid from Boston.’ Well, I was a working-class kid from Boston. … So it’s somewhere between constructing and believing, and I’ve been living that construction for as long as I can remember. But even before I was a poet, who hasn’t been making up a self?”

It’s true, of course: we all make up a self. We invent and perform multiple selves. But writers—especially writers who choose an autobiographical first person, as Myles does—have a particularly bizarre relationship to that invented self because the construction is also the basis for the art. Then the art generates further ideas about the invented self, and sometimes the maker gets a bit famous, and now which is which? Is the constructed self the writer? Is the writer the work? Is the work the image, the fame? Is the image or fame the same as the life? There it is: the hall of mirrors.

Adapted from poetry foundation.

Review

Leave a comment below with what you understood to be the author’s main ideas. Ask about this daily passage in office hours/workshops for help.

Subscribe to my Daily CARS mailing list by entering your email.

The full list of daily articles is available here.

Have a great day.
Jack Westin
MCAT CARS Instructor.
Contact Information

15 Comments


  1. Through art, artists are able to construct themselves through a mix of reality and imagination. The lines get blurred but the audience sees themselves in the artists’ work because it is about life itself.

    Reply

  2. Artists are able to construct themselves through their work and art. However, because of fame the artist might lose themselves and not be able to differentiate between reality and the constructed self.

    Reply

  3. MI: Eileen Myles, celebrity, reflects on “hall of mirrors,” in which she cannot distinguish her own identity from her constructed one. Author notes that this is with all people, but especially true of famous people.

    Reply

  4. We all make up a self but for writers their invented self = basis for art.

    Reply

  5. Myles’ life = like her fiction, and her constructed self vs real self vs her work blend together because of fame.

    Reply

  6. Introduces the idea of the “hall of mirrors”,a peculiar case in which writers create the idea of self, often creating the ideas of an “invented self” or something that is not actually reality

    Reply

  7. MP: Eileen Myles constructs the image of who she is as a writer, but fame changes the person and in the end is is difficult to see who the original person was and now is.
    tone: neutral

    Reply

  8. lives of famous represent average people, author has multiple selves

    Reply

  9. Myles, a famous poet and a writer, who wrote about fame, was a successful women at her era. She introduced the theory of hall of mirrors, where the self and the image are indistinguishable.

    Reply

  10. MIP: Myeles = popular , everybody involved in constructing self , Tone = Positive

    Reply

  11. We all make a self, can be hard for famous artists when they become famous

    Reply

  12. Usually writer, especially famous writers make their own identity through their work like M. Is that identity real? author wonders…

    Reply

  13. Famous people = influence, works + lives = indistinguishable

    Myles is an example

    Reply

  14. As we live our respective lives, the author uses Myles’ belief that we modify how we appear and who we are before others. We determine what our identity is and the other details about us.

    Reply

  15. When one gets famous, he/she doesn’t feel that adoration and respect garnered and it takes time for that feeling to set in so in a way it is advanced sentiment for people who become famous.

    Myles has become a household name after her works have been published. Myles is aware that after being famous, normal people out there might live their lives vicariously through her. (not lost on her….famous people….repositories for the hopes, dreams, and shames of the non-famous). We can only imagine leading the lives of celebrities, feeling their sense of anguish, pain and happiness based on the media no matter how manufactured the stories of these celebrities are.

    By writing her autobiography, Myles’ real life and public persona is indistinguishable. The TV character created by Soloway is based on Myles and she sees herself in that fictitious world of a TV show, akin to entering a house of mirrors where everything seems so surreal. Everyone indulges in make-belief and creates a persona of their real self, which in the case of Myles, both the invented self and real self is so alike that she cannot tell them apart.

    Reply

Leave a Reply