I’m not sure how The Tenacity of the Cockroach landed on my nightstand but I’m glad it did. The book is a collection of interviews with various entertainment industry “stars.” And I use that word loosely—some of the individuals are household names, some are off the radar screen entirely, most have had some success—if short lived. All are “outsiders”—and that’s what makes this book so darn interesting: it’s a sneak peek into the minds of the true creative before we put them in a box, classified them, and gave them a sexy label: The Creative Class. But unlike many of the creative class of today who are striving to be accepted, these are the guys who let go of that expectation long ago (if they ever sought it all.) The people interviewed in this book don’t give a damn what we think about them. They are totally unencumbered by tradition, expectation and social norms. They are magnificently, singly themselves.
This is a book for people who want to learn a little about authenticity and unbridled non-linear thought and work by jumping into the heads and hearts of people who have long given up on social convention.
At the highest level, The Tenacity of the Cockroach is about creativity.
There’s nothing funny about this book. These are serious interviews with seriously thoughtful, independent people.
I found myself both troubled by the interviews and intrigued by them. At times I felt their loneliness, angst, and detachment—this was not a happy read. It was a deep, thought-provoking one. And one that made me jealous at times as well: “I want some of that ‘I don’t give a #$@!’ attitude!”
There’s just a lot of stuff to wade through with this book but it’s worth it for the occasional shot of brilliance or inspiration—which are as relevant today as when the book was released almost 20 years ago.
One of my favorite interviews was George Carlin’s. He raises an issue we still can’t figure out today:
“I do not believe the occasional use of a derogatory term, used in a non-insulting way, is harmful. So, I use ‘em, and I think it’s up to the people and society to know the difference between hate speech and casual use of slang terms.”
Weird Al Yankovic’s views on profit speak to the unsavory implications of placing commercialism above all else:
“The thing is, people can’t complain about profit-oriented moves if they’re only interested in profit themselves. You can’t have it both ways. If they’re willing to polish up (x) and sell it to make money, they can’t really complain about the fact that somebody above them has sold them down the river.”
Gene Simmons (Kiss) speaks to the side of commercialism everyone loves and Weird Al warns about— self-gain:
“Immediately, I saw that we were a rock ‘n’ roll brand, not just a rock ‘n’ roll band.”
And John Waters sums up the entire vibe of this book:
“The middle is people who want to be just like everyone else, and I’ve never understood that… I discovered you could be insane and happy and have a good life without being like everyone else.”
For anyone who can’t see themselves in the world today, read this book. For everyone else who can’t see others unlike themselves in the world today, read this book.