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The Art of Being: book review

October 21st, 2004 · 2 Comments

I bought this book for the fan factor: anything Christine Dente does I want to see. But as I read it I discovered other artists I appreciated and their insights into alcoholism, loss, rock star lifestyle, writing and aging.

The Art of Being is a compilation of essays that will benefit Finding Balance, a faith-based organization dedicated to providing information and resources for those who struggle with disordered eating. Constance Rhodes, a former record company marketing director, founded the organization and edited the collection.

I’ve listened to albums and read other books that were sewn together from various artists, and this too has that uneven patchwork effect. In my opinion, some pieces are stronger than others.

Two powerful personal essays revealed specific details of intense suffering and struggles. Tammy Trent described what it was like when her husband of eleven years died in a diving accident in Jamaica. Her Angel in Housekeeping Clothes amazed me.

Ashley Cleveland shared her battles with alcoholism and drug addiction.

I have spent much of my life trying to reshuffle my DNA into a better presentation of myself, not only physically but emotionally, tempermentally and spiritually.


I had spent years anesthetizing my emotions with alcohol, and when the numbness wore off, those emotions came flying to the surface like a catfight. This was more than I could bear, so I made a habit of mentally leaving the premises.

These expressions of loss and wrestling were mixed in the book with other perspective, such as what it is like to be a professional musician, and a star on stage. I could relate to some of the essays, including pieces on parenting or pain, but others were from a world I’ll never know…

Don Chaffer pondered the purpose of the praise:

…It took me a number of years to realize that even when I felt as though I didn’t play or sing terribly well, or that the set list was a bit awkward, or that the connection with the crowd seemed weak, somebody almost always came up to us after the show and said they loved it.

When confronted with this reality, I felt I had two options: (1) to believe the people and not myself and decide that pretty much anything I do is good, or (2) to admit to myself that while their praise felt good, it didn’t necessarily tell me as much about myself as I had hoped it would. I opted for option number two because it seemed truer.


I began to ask myself some questions: If it doesn’t seem to matter whether or not I play well, why do I care about how well I play? ….

Gloria Gaither talked about priorities

The good thing about kids and family is that they don’t let you get away with being fake. In anyone’s professional lives there are times when illusions are created through imaging, marketing, positioning and politicking. Sometimes we need a three-year-old who tells it like it is.

Christine Dente’s piece on Becoming seemed to be an extension of essays I’ve read on her website and quotes from interviews. She reflected on the changes of time and beauty:

As I grow older, facing the loss of face is frightening. Like aging sidewalks, my skin must also submit to the unrelenting forces of nature. I’ve gotten a certain amount of attention for my looks over the years, and though I am loathe to admit it, I know I’ve built some of my identity around this skin-deep person. How much? I’m finding out. I have no choice. There’s no going back.

Linford Detweiler wrote:

Slowly I learn to accept and even love my life story. I grow less interested in trading my story for someone else’s. I want to take care of my own story and encourage others to do the same. I want the ability to read my life, and hopefully understand much of it. I don’t want to find out too late that I inadvertently crossed out most of the good parts.

I agree.

What makes for a good story is not necessarily a thrill-a-minute plot, but an eye for detail, loaded moments. It’s the so-called mundane that is most-often chock-full of the eternal.

Tags: books

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Sys Admn // Oct 21, 2004 at 11:22 am

    Linford Detweiler is half of the husband-and-wife Over The Rhine. OTR has built a great rapport with fans with carefully crafted lyrics and catchy melodies. Find more at their website, http://www.overtherhine.com, especially the free samples at http://www.overtherhine.com/music/mp3attic/index.html.

  • 2 Julie // Oct 22, 2004 at 12:45 am

    I want to point out that the above comment is a strange one. It is not advertising poker or casinos. It seems specific to this post. But it seems like spam, not a personal note.

    I don’t know if this is a zealous Over the Rhine fan spamming feeds or a regular reader of this blog. But I wish whoever it was had left a name and a more personal flavor to the comment. I don’t mind links to OtR. I like what I know of the band. But I don’t like spam.