Saturday 10 December 2016

Daniel Finkelstein: Rock's greatest rebel owed it all to capitalism

Daniel Finkelstein

Published 16/01/2016 | 02:30

Floral tributes are placed in front of a mural of David Bowie, painted by Australian street artist James Cochran, aka Jimmy C, in Brixton. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Floral tributes are placed in front of a mural of David Bowie, painted by Australian street artist James Cochran, aka Jimmy C, in Brixton. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

In 1998, David Bowie completed the famous Proust questionnaire, first filled out by the novelist and since completed by dozens of artists and writers - Allen Ginsberg, Hedy Lamarr, Gore Vidal and on.

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Bowie's answers were characteristic. Often witty ("Which living person do you most admire?" "Elvis"), always interesting ("What is your idea of perfect happiness?" "Reading"), sometimes self-consciously clever to the point of pretentiousness but not quite beyond ("What is your current state of mind?" "Pregnant?").

The most revealing, however, was in his response to the question "Who are your heroes in real life?" Proust had cited Emile Boutroux, the 19th century historian of philosophy. Bowie replied, truthfully and insightfully: "The consumer".

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