Touch of Evil

History tells us that musicians who turn to the written word are just asking for trouble. Occasionally, though, something special sneaks through.

The stories are often horrifying, but, like the work of Raymond Carver and William Faulkner, they're too well crafted to be depressing. "I think they're sad but beautiful, too, and the beautiful part is the important part to me, because life wouldn't be sad if we didn't also find it beautiful and awe-inspiring and joyful," Sparks observes. "To me, a sad story can be a celebration of life and its fleeting beauty. I get horribly depressed by happy endings, because they seem like such a lie, such a denial of truth and the real movement of the world. Every beautiful thing in this world is made to be destroyed. I really got upset when everyone was sending teddy bears to Princess Diana's grave. It made me realize how screwed up people are about life and death. First off, her life was not nearly as tragic as most poor, suffering, voiceless creatures who inhabit this planet -- from starving people to poisoned fish. Secondly, a teddy bear for a grown woman? Ghastly. She was not a candle in the wind. A candle in the wind is a poor little ant who gets stepped on or a spider washed down the drain or the woman who was walking with her 4-year-old daughter recently in downtown Chicago and a big hunk of ice fell off a building and killed her. Those are the kind of things that speak to me of how grand and awful, tragic and fleeting, precious and sweet each moment of life really is."

When asked whether she's read anything by Jewel, Sparks says no: "She strikes me as a very optimistic person. Those kind of people frighten me, because I have little idea what their world is like. I can imagine her when she was living in her car being still totally positive and hopeful about her place in the world. Me, no matter what's happening, I could be winning the Nobel Prize, and I have to think about terrified Jewish children thrown screaming into the ovens, and I know things don't always go the way they ought to. Actually, I don't tend to read a lot of fiction or poetry. I get intimidated or I get judgmental. I read a lot of natural science and history books and biography. When I read fiction, I usually limit myself to the shelves of the thrift store. That way, if I hate a book, I can rip it up or set it on fire."

Jewel: Her thoughts are important. She lived in a van, for chrissakes.
Jewel: Her thoughts are important. She lived in a van, for chrissakes.

Chasing Down the Dawn can be found in the bargain-book section of your favorite chain bookstore (at a price that might tempt you to rip it up or set it on fire if it's not to your liking). Evil can be ordered from the Handsome Family's Web site:

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