The Creative Dead-End of Addiction

Who says blockage is bad for you?

Nothing like a psychopath next door to get the juices flowing.
Nothing like a psychopath next door to get the juices flowing.

In addition to the spectacularly blocked Bart, Barton Fink also features an addict writer who can't write, John Mahoney's Bill Mayhew (a composite of Fitzgerald and Faulkner). Here Barton is arguing with Tony Shalhoub's producer character, Ben Geisler, about Mayhew. It's a funny exchange, but also, I think goes to the heart of my argument – that block can be creatively freeing (à la "I'm going to write myself into the script I'm adapting!"), while addiction is a creative dead-end – the writer as defined by addiction alone.

Ben: I thought you were going to consult another writer on this.
Barton: I've talked with Bill Mayhew.
Ben: Bill Mayhew? Some help. He's a souse!
Barton: He's a great writer.
Ben: A great souse.
Barton: You don't understand–
Ben: Souse!
Barton: –his pain because he can't write–
Ben: Souse! Souse!

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Writers in the Movies, Barton Fink, Tony Shalhoub, John Turturro

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