Monday, February 20, 2006

"A Reporter" and Daniel Johnston

Fascinating article in the Times over the weekend about Daniel Johnston. When I started my music geekdom in Texas, I remember hearing a lot about Johnston (who lives in the state) on the periphery of my explorations, but I never listened to his work. As the article makes clear, he's a deeply troubled guy (I had no idea how deeply when I first heard of him), and now in addition to his bizarre folk music, he's on the verge of becoming famous (and somewhat wealthy) for his drawings and paintings.

It's a long, good article that raises questions about family loyalty and the courtship of an "outsider" artist (and whether Johnston even qualifies as that), and it makes me more eager to see The Devil and Daniel Johnston, a feature documentary that's being released late next month.

But before I leave you alone to read the article, one quibble:

At certain points, the Times writer is clearly taking for granted his own presence as the reporter. As here:
So as (Johnston) does with almost anyone who comes to see him, he suggested a trip into town. Over tacos and several glasses of compulsively sugared iced tea, he was by turns friendly, excited, petulant and distracted, sometimes all within a few minutes, as his friends warned he could be.
The implied reading being, of course, "as his friends warned me he could be." But then there's this parenthetical aside a bit later on:
(At the dollar store in Waller, where Mr. Johnston asked to be taken, a reporter offered to help him pay for several bottles of diet cola, and Mr. Johnston suddenly yelled out: "Don't penny-ante me, man. I'm a rock star!" He laughed. The cashiers laughed, too, nervously.)
"A reporter"? Was this another reporter among a gaggle following Johnston around on this day?

And finally, this:
(Johnston) announced that he was tired of being interviewed and started to usher a reporter to the door. But before he left, he said, he wanted to give him a folder full of recent drawings to take with him. The reporter declined.
Is this tic incredibly annoying, or is it just me? Would it violate journalistic ethics to write "I offered to help him pay" or "he started to usher me to the door" or "I declined"? Any journalism students out there who care to defend this practice?


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