Never ask an artist to explain their work. Not, at least, if you want to understand it. American novelist Rick Moody, best known for The Ice Storm, broke this golden rule when he asked David Bowie to provide a “work-flow diagram” for his latest album The Next Day.
The album, released to Bowie’s unsuspecting public in March after 10 years of near silence, surprised and delighted fans and critics alike. Moody described it as “the unlikeliest masterpiece of the recent popular song”.
Bowie, for reasons best known to himself, responded to Moody’s request with a list of 42 words, including chthonic (relating to the underworld in Greek mythology) and, more aptly, Mystification.
Moody said the list of words was sent without any accompanying comment.
“The list is far better than I could have hoped,” he wrote, adding he will use it “to make a few observations about the incredible excellence of The Next Day”.
The list in full reads: Effigies, Indulgences, Anarchist, Violence, Chthonic, Intimidation, Vampyric, Pantheon, Succubus, Hostage, Transference, Identity, Mauer, Interface, Flitting, Isolation, Revenge, Osmosis, Crusade, Tyrant, Domination, Indifference, Miasma, Pressgang, Displaced, Flight, Resettlement, Funereal, Glide, Trace, Balkan, Burial, Reverse, Manipulate, Origin, Text, Traitor, Urban, Comeuppance, Tragic, Nerve, Mystification.