Historian Robin Kelley's Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original sets out to humanize Monk. We should question the image of the human that's being offered. In place of Mad Monk, Monk the childlike genius, images which Kelley is right to regard critically, Kelley presents us with an image of Monk the Revolutionary Worker. It makes one wonder whether there could be an intelligible biography that didn't traffic in cultural doxa, thereby assuming rather than demonstrating ways of life, a biography that, to stick to our current topic, didn't traffic in preformed images of the human, but rather arrested images, for a brief moment, spun them around, talked to them. Is it possibly in the nature of history to form an image of the human as we go along, we who are marked by historicity?
Myth, the bête noire of so many of our discourses, creeps in through the most improbable fissures. Is severe mental illness a fissure in the human?
Perhaps if the gods seem childlike it's because they don't accept their fates—naturally they do end up being who they are, but there's something both more than and less than fatal about the whole affair of coming to be a mythological figure, a simulacrum of fate that any message about fate must pass through. That's myth.
The image of the human generates its own inhuman, It stirs its own negative image from the depths of its mythos. But is that true? Doesn't the inhuman arise in the telling? And doesn't the human itself ask to be thought of as something more akin to story than to myth?