The Austin Chronicle

The Creative Dead-End of Addiction

By Kimberley Jones, October 13, 2008, 11:10am, Picture in Picture

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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