It was naive of us to believe Lou Reed was a little bit invincible. First of all, you’re either invincible or not–there’s no being a “little” of it. (Ever sensitive to meaning, Reed would take us to task for that.) Second, of course, is the pesky fact that no one is invincible. Yet art can make you believe things you wouldn’t otherwise, and Lou Reed’s art–born permanent as it was–contributed to our belief. We’d feel even more the fool had Reed not apparently believed it himself. “I am a triumph of modern medicine,” he posted on his site in June, after he’d had what his Velvet Underground bandmate John Cale called on Facebook a “very serious procedure.” (That Reed had undergone a liver transplant was not overtly referenced.) Reed continued: “I look forward to being on stage performing, and writing more songs to connect with your hearts and spirits and the universe well into the future.”
So did we. When the first sign that something was wrong surfaced and Reed canceled his Coachella performances last spring due to “unavoidable complications.” we wrote about Reed’s singular linguistic style even in default mode. “Unavoidable Complications” was a pretty good coinage (perhaps the “best excuse ever”). We even bought the domain name for him, hoping that somehow during the long future he spoke of having, he’d use it for some project–an album? a play? We never got to give it to him–and we read with special sadness about his death yesterday. Not being able to give it to him reminded us of that grim six-word story Hemingway usually gets credit for: “For sale, baby shoes, never used.” Good intentions, unfulfilled. The literary agent Andrew Wylie, confirming Reed’s death told the New York Times, “He was as great an artist as it’s possible to be in my opinion.” Wylie’s company represents the estates of Diane Arbus and Richard Avedon, the novelist Philip Roth, Reed’s widow Laurie Anderson and W.S. Merwin–to mention just a few artists to whom, according to Wylie, Reed gave up no ground. Reed’s iconic voice was in the world longer than many of his contemporaries who pursued pleasure and art with the same avidity. A roll call of Andy Warhol’s Factory cohorts today would bring a lot of silence between the occasional “here.” The whole world is a set of unavoidable complications that Reed faced as unstintingly as any artist can, which may be just what Mr. Wylie means. The agent is welcome to pick up the domain name on Mr. Reed’s behalf. It’s our gift to his family and an honor to give it.