Wrote this last week. Having no idea, of course.

Perhaps you failed to guess, but I owe the bulk of my aesthetic construct to Prince Rogers Nelson, circa the movie Purple Rain, circa cassette. The film and album were released the summer after I graduated from high school. Come fall, when college was back in session, I had sat solo in the theater watching Purple Rain a minimum of four times, worn the hubs off the soundtrack, stocked my bedroom at Grandma’s house with purple scarves and fat candles, and scotch-taped fishnet to the drywall above the bed (intended to create shadows of mystery but in reality a most pointless snare). I furthermore spent time snipping words and letters out of old magazines and taping them around the edges of the bureau mirror to recreate Prince’s lyrics in the style of a hostage note, phonetic shorthand included (Prince was text message before text message). That very same summer I left Wisconsin to work as a cowboy in Wyoming, made my first trip to Europe, and began experimenting with hair mousse.

All us cosmopolitans gotta start somewhere.

I’m a stocky flat-footed farm boy from Chippewa County, Wisconsin, who can’t dance a lick. But Prince in his own purple way set me free. The book I’m working on is about the French philosopher and essayist Montaigne, who once wrote, “I now, and I anon, are two several persons; but whether better, I cannot determine.” I think of my young self trying to be Prince, a foolish pursuit on the face of it, but essential at the heart of it, leading as it did to other gracious worlds.

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