The Anjani Chronicles – Introduction

Prologue To The Preface To The Foreword Of The Introduction Of The …

The title, “The Anjani Chronicles,” and the recurrent invocation of Anjani’s name throughout this post notwithstanding, the specific entry before you has less to do with Anjani Thomas than with writing about Anjani Thomas.1

One of the perks of blogging is learning, in the process of writing and publishing posts, a new skill, discovering a new fragment of information, and, if one is very lucky, reaching a new understanding about how the world works.

Another perk of blogging is wielding absolute authority in the decision to share said skill, information fragment, or understanding with readers.2

And, in fact, a more accurate if less alluring heading for today’s post would be “How I came to interview Anjani and what I consequently learned about the journalism of interviews along with an ambiguous promise that the material from those interviews will actually be published someday soon.”

Consider yourselves warned.

Interviews With Anjani That Will Make You Want To Kiss – Well, Anjani, Of Course

I suspect that The New Yorker, to name a publication renowned for publishing extensive profiles of important individuals, has never in its 82 year history felt it incumbent to preface a biographical sketch or interview with a notification of this sort:

The Anjani Chronicles are composed from real data garnered in real interviews with the real Anjani.

Really.

The Anjani Chronicles are not another in the series of satirical pieces, fictional conversations, extended jokes, fake news stories, or other snark-infested exemplars that populate much of the Heck of a Guy Blog.

The Anjani Chronicles are, instead, character sketches and biographical illuminations that, one hopes, provide insight into Anjani Thomas.

Again, the Anjani Chronicles are the results of real interviews.

This is not a drill.

To be fair, I also suspect that no New Yorker interview has opened, as did my interviews with Anjani, with “So, what are you wearing?”3

As the astute reader will have inferred, the Anjani Chronicles do not precisely follow the standard template for Biographic Articles About Musical Artists, Jazz Singers, Female.

The Making Of The Anjani Chronicles

Anjani is a singer and keyboardist best known for her Blue Alert CD, which features elegantly performed songs suffused with evocative lyrics, and her professional and romantic relationships with Leonard Cohen, an accomplished singer-songwriter in his own right.

My own connection to Anjani began in late July 2006 when I was captivated on first hearing the tracks from Blue Alert and immediately posted a review on my Heck of a Guy blog that reflected my fascination with the music, Music Recommendation That Will Make You Want To Kiss Me.

What happened next is described in this excerpt from Anjani And DrHGuy FAQ:

For a brief shining moment,4 Anjani Thomas, she of the dulcet tones, exotically lovely visage, and long-term relationship with Leonard Cohen, and DrHGuy, he of the facile wordplay, Ozarks-bred charm, and infamously jejune sexual fantasies, carried on an outrageously outré, energetically eroticized flirtation in the Heck Of A Guy blog open to anyone who cared to read the exchanges.

To obviate responding individually to the continued emails from viewers curious about the relationship,5 I’ve consolidated the pertinent blogobits. I wrote the posts; Anjani’s remarks are in the Comments sections.

Otherwise, there isn’t much to explain. I was wild for Anjani’s CD, Blue Alert, and wrote a heartfelt, adoring review – that also included allusions (also heartfelt and adoring as all get-out, if arguably tinged with a tad of smart-aleckedness) to my simultaneously bedding Anjani and two other female vocalists, the nature of the connection between “Lenny & Anji,” and the similarity between my serendipitous discovery of the Blue Alert album to the blind date that led to the catastrophe known as my first marriage.

Anjani graciously responded with an unsolicited comment that sweetly acknowledged my endorsement of Blue Alert without admonishing me for the less respectful portions of the post.

Proving that no good deed goes unpunished, I posted a rejoinder to her comment, much of which was an elaboration of the theme that, well, “upon reading my post, Anjani was instantly infatuated with me.”

I also claimed that [ahem] “She was also totally turned on by the notion of the foursome and wondered how I would feel about mixing and matching with Tina Turner and Joan Jett.”

She responded to that post as well, giving as good as she got.

The rest is, as they say, history.

Since then, I’ve published a batch of blog entries about Anjani and the Blue Alert album6 and enjoyed a sporadic email correspondence with her that is as predictably exhilarating and bedazzling as one might expect from this type of asymmetric communication between a fan and the object of the fan’s adoration.

But don’t get me wrong, I’m probably as gratified by the connection as she is.

Two months ago, a flurry of email between us was occasioned by my plan to bulk up the somewhat perfunctory entry on Anjani in Wikipedia, which then did not even show her likeness. After Anjani sent photos and signed the waiver to allow their use by Wikipedia, I nudged them through the Byzantine system of safeguards that insures that graphics on that site are not in violation of copyright. In the course of checking the accuracy of references and content for the anticipated changes in the Wikipedia text entry with Anjani, I pointed out that Wikipedia’s “No original research” policy7 precluded verbatim use of information I garnered directly from her in Wikipedia unless it could be supported by other references. “Even if I were to do an extended interview with [her],” I wrote,” I wouldn’t be able to use it in a Wikipedia entry.”

It was a short step from that exchange to the deferral of the Wikipedia project in favor of completing an interview with Anjani for the Heck of a Guy blog.

Two long telephone conversations and several clarifying emails between Anjani and me followed. The completion of the interviews and the publication of this material was delayed by logistics (e.g., time zone conflicts and parental visitations, in Hawaii for Anjani and the Ozarks for me, over Thanksgiving), other obligations that competed for my time, and my pondering and fretting about how one goes about this business of writing a competent interview.

The Publishing Format

The material from my interviews and email with Anjani could have been forged into a single post, but both writing and reading it would have been massive tasks, its length dwarfing that of the longest reader-daunting New Yorker Profile – and many novellas.

And, the publication date would have been shortly after New Years Day – but not New Years Day 2008.

Instead, I’m publishing the interviews as The Anjani Chronicles, a series of posts focused on one theme, time period, or episode.

The Perspective Taken By The Anjani Chronicles


Sometime after my interviews with Anjani, I read a number of articles and a book or two on the journalistic aspects of writing biographical material that would have been helpful – had I read them prior to those interviews. One of the most thoughtful and insightful was “The New Yorker Profile: People and Place,” by Larissa MacFarquhar,8 which is the source of the following excerpts.

What editors all really want, if your writing about a movie star for a magazine like Premier, is to know about a movie star’s sex-life. I hate asking about it. The movie star knows the question is coming: “How did you lose your virginity?”. And if you can imagine asking a total stranger this question when you are pretending to be a professional adult, nothing is more humiliating. So thank God I now work for the New Yorker.

Well, for what it’s worth, I didn’t ask Anjani when she lost her virginity so those of you hoping to find that information will have to wait until Premiere does its own interview.

I did ask her about pet names she and Leonard Cohen have for each other, but I suppose that’s not the same thing.

The first thing is that it [writing a Profile] is a kind of love affair. At least for me. Even before I meet my subjects, I immerse myself completely in their work. If they are writers I read everything they’ve written. If they make movies, I will see all their movies. I will try to learn as much as I can about them. I’ll read everything that’s been written about them. Little by little I become genuinely obsessed with them. I will be thinking about them all the time.

Yep. That sounds about right.

_____________________

In many ways, when you interview [the subjects of the Profiles], it feels like a date in a very strange and sometimes creepy way. Often you’ll be talking to them over a meal, and often — at least, with The New Yorker, though a lot of other publications who don’t have the luxury of this — I have the luxury of spending a lot of time with someone. I will sometimes spend five or six days non-stop in their company. That’s a lot of time; you almost never do that with anybody.

I can think of no better use of a New Yorker expense account than funding five or six days non-stop with Anjani. The Heck of a Guy Blog budget, however, is such that Anjani insisted on paying for the second phone call.

_____________________

Most importantly, you are asking them the type of questions that are only socially acceptable to ask on a date or in an interview. You are asking them to really evaluate their life in a sense. You are asking them what horrendous mistakes they’ve made, what they regret, how they feel about their families, what their beliefs are, what they were like when they were young and how they’ve changed since then. Do they feel that they’ve abandoned their younger self? You are asking them really to examine themselves in a way that people don’t usually do when they are with each other. All of which makes for a very intense interaction. Meanwhile, I will be just hanging on their every word, riveted by everything they say — because somehow for that time that I am writing about them, I just find them utterly fascinating.

Anjani specified that no areas of her life were off limits.9 While she may well have felt there was limited risk that I would go Janet Malcolm on her, writing a devastating article that dissected her life to reveal that she is, say, emotionally frigid, an abuser of illicit substances, amoral, and sexually perverse,10 there were, interspersed throughout the interviews, uncomfortable moments of self-examination such as those MacFarquhar describes, and responses that, I believe, indicate traits and behavioral patterns that explain, in part, how Anjani became the person she is today.

_____________________

Also, I don’t talk about myself, which is partly to remind them that this is not a friendly conversation. I am not their friend. In that sense because it keeps them aware of what is going on. In another way, it also gives me an advantage, I’ve discovered. The less I talk about myself, the more mysterious I become. It becomes more like therapy. Because they don’t know anything about me, and because I’m making them talk about themselves, it’s as though I’m a sort of blankness they have to fill. There’s a term called transference, they start to project all kinds of emotions and authority on me which would not be there normally if I would be more forthcoming. So I am aware that while the part of not talking about myself to make it clear that this is not a friendly conversation, it also does give me an emotional advantage as well.

Oops. I heartily agree with MacFarquhar’s premise, that the best interviews are those in which the interviewer disappears from the article. I tend, in fact, toward apoplectic reactions to journalists who use their proximity to the famously talented for self-aggrandizement.

But, beyond those occasional email exchanges between Anjani and me, this blog proffers more than enough information about me, including my scribblings about Anjani, to disqualify me as a blank screen of the sort MacFarquhar outlines.

Since the optimal interviewer role is not possible in this situation, my contention is that the next best option is making the relationship clear to the audience up front and using the access afforded by our limited familiarity to explore beyond the usual interviewer’s queries (e.g., “Who were your musical influences?”) and draw conclusions beyond those found in the final paragraph of the usual articles (“Anjani sings real good.”).

_____________________

… when I sit down to write about a person, I am very aware that I failed to capture this person completely — because they are a complex human being and I’ve spent only a few days with them. What on earth can I possibly know? And I find myself jealous of the position of the fiction writer who knows everything about the character — or at least everything he needs to know.

These may be my favorite lines from the essay. I find it heartening as well as endearing to think of a writer saying to herself, “What on earth can I possibly know [about the interviewee]?” and then writing a moving, discerning, acutely perspicacious Profile about that interviewee.

That is certainly the way I’ve approached the upcoming posts about Anjani.

The Anjani Chronicles Graphic

The graphic atop this post is based on “Lady With Organ,” a much reproduced tapestry from the late 15th century featuring a Mille Fleurs background. The original is now displayed at the Andgers Castle. I’ve reordered the elements and, of course, added the legend, “The Anjani Chronicles.” The figures and the portable organ, however, are unchanged from the original design. Note the smaller figure behind the organ pumping the bellows.

Next Anjani Chronicles Post: The Anjani Chronicles – Growing Up Anjani

All published Anjani Chronicles posts can be found by clicking on Anjani Chronicles in the links listed under “Categories.” Also, links to all currently published posts from The Anjani Chronicles can be found at The Anjani Chronicles – Posts Published


  1. I should first inform those readers asking themselves “Who the heck is Anjani?” that Anjani is an outstanding jazz vocalist, whose best known work is the “Blue Alert” album, which I reviewed in Music Recommendation That Will Make You Want To Kiss Me. This post is about my interviews with Anjani.

    I should also inform those readers searching for the Anjani who performs traditional Indian dance or the Anjani who makes Bollywood movies, those attempting to make reservations at the Anjani Hotel, those hoping to land a job with Anjani Etech Solutions, Inc., and those looking for any Anjani other than the dulcet voiced, sexy, and enchanting singer and keyboardist, Anjani Thomas that This is not the the destination you intended – which is not necessarily the same as “the wrong place.” You can re-Google to navigate to your Anjani of choice but you may find it a pleasant and gratifying experience to take advantage of the serendipity that brought you here and spend some time with this Anjani. []

  2. Regrettably, a blogger’s absolute authority to proffer such content does not extend to coercing viewers to read that content or, even if they read it, buying into the blogger’s premise. []
  3. On the other hand, “The Genome Warrior,” a New Yorker Profile published June 5, 2000 about J. Craig Venter, the biologist who was instrumental in mapping the human genome, did open with this quote from an unnamed scientist: “Craig Venter is an asshole.” []
  4. In non-metaphorical terms: August 5-17, 2006 []
  5. These queries typically take the form of Anjani? You? Huh? I don’t get it. Why you? or Who really wrote that? []
  6. All posts dealing with Anjani can be found at Anjani Thomas []
  7. Wikipedia: No original research fully explicates the concept of “No original research” which is summarized thusly:

      * Wikipedia is not a publisher of original thought, nor a forum for promoting one’s own point of view; all material must be verifiable
      * Facts must be backed by citations to reliable sources that contain these facts
      * Interpretations and syntheses must be attributed to reliable sources that make these interpretations and syntheses

    []

  8. “The New Yorker Profile: People and Place” is a transcript of the presentation given by New Yorker staff writer Larissa MacFarquhar at Northwestern University’s “Literature of Fact” Lecture Series on November 17, 2003 []
  9. Anjani did request, without insisting, that I not include two of her responses: her one line critique of another performer, which was, at worst, unenthusiastic, and (2) the specific nature of one of her projects, lest someone else appropriate her idea. []
  10. There was, on the other hand, the all too real risk that I could go Hunter Thompson on her, describing her as, say, emotionally frigid, an abuser of illicit substances, amoral, and sexually perverse – which, in a gonzo journalistic context, could be considered high praise. []

0 responses to “The Anjani Chronicles – Introduction

  1. I anxiously await for more on Anjani Dr. Heck. It happens I’m probably nearly as smitten you are!

    Dick

  2. Elizabeth Bacon-Smith

    Hey, Guy ~

    You’re a heck of a guy to have taken on this project. I’m VERY pleased to see it, and am looking forward to the results of your conversations with Anjani. Great decision. I’m glad she assented.

    ~ Lizzy

  3. You’re intimidating the feck out of me Heck. Your use of language, wit, references, footnotes, “teasers”, miracles to come, has me undone! Don’t forget there are some of us, this woman in particular, who can glean amazing insight into this wonderful performer from “Where do you shop, do you like shoes and what’s your favorite fragrance?”

    Ya. Ya. I know. But sometimes it’s the little things that personalize the person and connect us…not that one of the Sacred Names is…Prada. Ha!

    Looking forward to reading your interviews.

    Dar