Some Very Brief Thoughts on Philip Seymour Hoffman

by E.B. Bartels

I can’t pinpoint an exact moment when I decided I wanted to write. It was an idea regularly reinforced throughout my childhood, adolescence, and adult life: reading Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech for the first time, writing a letter to and receiving a postcard reply from David Sedaris, visiting Louisa May Alcott’s house in Concord, crying over Nabokov. One such moment was watching Cameron Crowe’s film Almost Famous. I wanted William Miller’s Rolling Stone assignment. I wanted to be a journalist, a nonfiction writer, one who traveled, who fully immersed herself into her stories.

But, more than William Miller, I wanted to be Lester Bangs. I wanted the seniority, the status, the experience, the authority. If possible, I would skip the William Miller phase and go right to Lester Bangs. This is a real writer, I remember thinking. But, at the time that I first saw Almost Famous as an ignorant teenager, I did not know who Lester Bangs was outside of the context of the movie. In short: I wanted to be Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs.

Almost Famous was just the beginning for me. Capote, Doubt, Synecdoche, New York… I cheered in the theatre when he appeared in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. But while we mourn the loss of such an incredibly talented actor for such a tragic reason, don’t ever forget those words spoken by Mr. Hoffman in that first role that won me over:

“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we’re uncool.”

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