Thoughts on Elliott Smith and the New Biography, Torment Saint

I just finished reading William Todd Schultz’s Torment Saint, the poignant, sad, troubled biography of Elliott Smith. To borrow a well-worn title from another less tragic contemporary (David Eggers), Smith’s music and legacy is truly the Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Of course the tales of depression, drug abuse, and sad lyrics are nothing new to anyone familiar with the myth of Elliott Smith, but as I turned each page of the book, I realized that Smith is someone I would have liked – even with his insufferable self-loathing. Clearly this was another case of an artist who enjoyed making art for art’s sake and when that art was co-opted for mass consumption and all the pitfalls that accompany corporate success, it was simply too heavy to handle – insert Kurt Cobain here.