An annoying anonymous person writes:
Why is it any time anyone hipsters or academics are supposed to like dies, they just so happen to be very important never-before-mentioned influences on your life? Are you really so needy that there's no death you won't use as an excuse to call attention to yourself?
Although this comment belongs to the tedious category of "complaints about bloggers having blogs and writing about stuff on them," it nevertheless struck a chord: first, because the size of the community grieving for Alex Chilton surprised me; and second, it seems to be a dangerous time to be a living artist or academic who changed my life. That said, this annoying anonymous person is reading in bad faith: not everyone who influenced me did so greatly or uniquely, which is why I noted Kurt Vonnegut's passing in passing, as a "Vonnegut phase" is required to join the community of readers. The same cannot be said of those academics and artists with whom I shared an intimate relationship over many years, which is why I wrote individual remembrances of Octavia Butler, David Foster Wallace, Howard Zinn, or Alex Chilton.
If I seem to be too familiar a type, blame central casting: academics play the part because that's the part they've been asked to play. That there seems to be a wider community of similarly interested intellectuals is, to my mind, a sign that while academic disciplines may be irrevocably balkanized, something resembling a larger intellectual culture still exists. Whether this cultural homogeneity is a good thing depends on what it actually contains, and given how surprising Chilton's inclusion image was to me, I probably should refrain from saying much more about it.
However, in light of the recent proliferation of lists like this, I think I'll take a moment to silence future scolds by listing all living authors, musicians, and filmmakers with whose work I feel a deeply irrational kinship. They may not still move me as they once did, but they once did and when they die a little bit of me will too.