A little more than a month has passed since my last blog. I’d like to say I’ve been using the time in a worthwhile way—writing new work, perhaps, or reading a bunch of new books of poetry to shore me up in preparation for teaching creative writing this summer. But the fact is, I’ve gone crazy for Hamilton (the Broadway musical that was just nominated for a record-breaking 16 Tony Awards—for those of you living under a rock).
It’s all I think about. I stay up late watching YouTube videos about anything about the musical—I recommend Leslie Odom, Jr.’s video where he responds to comments and questions on Facebook, and Lin-Manuel Miranda on Jimmy Fallon for the Wheel of Freestyle bit, or any of the #HamforHam videos— just coast from video to video to your heart’s content. (While I’m at it, I also suggest watching the video of “My Shot,” which was performed at the White House.) I listen to the soundtrack constantly—I haven’t listened to NPR in my car since the beginning of April—I don’t have time, because I want to get in as many songs as I can on the trip back and forth to work (also, I don’t care to hear anything about stupid Donald Trump [or warmongering imperialist oligarch Hilary Clinton, while I’m at it], and I assume anything election-related will mention those worthies). If I wake up in the middle of the night, some lines from somewhere in the musical are floating in my head. Or, if someone says something to me, I can think of a perfect line from Hamilton in response—and I desperately want to sing it to them. (Really, try me… post a comment below, and I’ll respond with the perfect line.) I also can’t help myself from thinking about writing Hamilton fanfic. Not that I would… but sometimes I imagine writing it. Like, I totally want to write some Hamilton/Laurens slash—I don’t know why. I comb websites (especially tumblr) for anything Ham-related. It’s insane. Or, if I read anything in the “Hamiltome” (The Hamilton Revolution), I can’t just read the lyrics on the lyrics pages, I hear the songs sung in my brain… breaking only to read the notes on individual lines.
It’s also all I dream about. Last night, for instance, I dreamed two separate Hamilton dreams. In the first one, I dreamed that Lin-Manuel Miranda invited me to audition, and I was supposed to sing/rap any song from the second act. While it’s true that I don’t know the words to the second act as well as I do to the first one, I know enough that I could totally have aced the audition—I would have chosen “Cabinet Battle #1” for the audition, by the way—which I know 100%. Except when they gave me the list of songs from the second act to choose from, they weren’t anything I recognized. (A variation on a “failing the test” dream, I guess?) In the second dream, I was drawing fan art of Daveed Diggs as Thomas Jefferson. (I want to include an image, but they’re all copyrighted—just Google “Daveed Diggs as Thomas Jefferson”… if you see a man in a purple velvet/velour suit, you’ll know who I’m talking about). I have never drawn a fan art of anything in my entire life. (Mainly because I don’t draw.) But it kind of makes me want to sit down and try.
Additionally, I’ve been reading Ron Chernow’s Hamilton biography; I’m on p. 580 (out of 738 pages + notes), and I go around reporting on what Hamilton has done “the night before”—i.e. what I read the night before in the biography, I report on. “Did you know… blah blah Hamilton blah blah?” (Did you know that Hamilton got Yellow Fever? Did you know Hamilton was made a General under Washington, who came back from retirement at 66, when it seemed that the U.S. was going to go to war with France? Did you know that everyone in President John Adams’ cabinet supported Hamilton, and John Adams had no idea? Etc., etc.) If I haven’t reported a “Hamilfact” to you, it’s probably because you and I haven’t crossed paths any time recently. And, if you know me at all, you know two things: 1) I don’t read biographies; and 2) I don’t read anything longer than like 300 pages (Harry Potter notwithstanding). But I’m making good progress in Chernow. And one of these days soon, I plan to catch up with the Hamilcast, which is a podcast about the musical and Chernow’s biography. It’s on my list.
So, maybe you wonder why I’ve become obsessed with Hamilton—besides that it’s just a great musical and there are so many great lines in it (and it’s great hiphop with so many great rhymes in it) (all written by Lin-Manuel Miranda)—it’s because Hamilton was a copious, obsessed writer. These lines from “Non-Stop” describing Hamilton say it all: “Why do you write like you’re running out of time/ Write day and night like you’re running out of time/ Every day you fight like you’re running out of time…” One of the things that Chernow goes on and on about is how Hamilton just couldn’t stop writing—when he could write one essay, he’d write ten—or more. The Federalist Papers (essays that defended the Constitution to the public) were supposed to be 25 essays, with him having written like eight. But indeed, there were 85 essays, and Hamilton wrote 59 of them in six months. (I can barely write 3 poems in six months, it seems. Ok, I’m being disingenuous—I’m a little more dedicated than that, but you take my point.)
Even his essay, the Reynolds Pamphlet (a.k.a. Observations on Certain Documents Contained in No. V & VI of the “History of the United States for 1796,” in Which the Charge of Speculation Against Alexander Hamilton, Late Secretary of the Treasury, Is Fully Refuted. Written by Himself.) where he falls on his sword to assure the public that he only slept around, he did NOT engage in illegal speculation with the banks (he was overly scrupulous with American money and wanted people to know he never abused his position as Secretary of the Treasury), was 95 pages long. 95 pages! 95 pages to basically explain that he’s very sorry that he was a sex addict who stepped out on his wife (while also responding to other things in the pamphlet History…for 1796 by James Thompson Callender, like American Jacobism—but still) (see Chernow p. 533). It blows my mind. He wrote poems, letters, reports, dispatches, plans, essays on everything—as well as created things like our banking system and the Treasury, and coming up with the idea for West Point and the Coast Guard and starting the New York Post…and, and, and… Hamilton was a genius, and the musical celebrates that he was writer and that he wrote just as soon as breathe, and that is something I admire. I wish I could be that prolific—or maybe even a quarter as prolific. Or a tenth. (A hundredth?)
(I think Chernow mentioned that there are 27 volumes of collected works by Hamilton—and of course there’s probably more than that that didn’t survive. The collection, The Complete Works of Alexander Hamilton: The Federalist, The Continentalist, A Full Vindication, The Adams Controversy, The Jefferson Controversy, Military … (26 Books With Active Table of Contents) is available for Kindle for $1.99. I might have to get that. Except I hate reading books of any quality on the Kindle—because I can’t take notes.) (Seems to me I remember that excerpts from The Federalist [a.k.a. The Federalist Papers] appeared in the Norton Anthology of American Literature—back then, when the Norton was practically surgically attached to my hand, the thought of reading any kind of writing from the Revolutionary era sounded about as dry as dirt. Now I’m like, gimme gimme. I’ll read it all.)
I liken my love for all things Hamilton to a kind of crush. I sort of fall in love with things for a while—like anime, or manga, or zentangles, or TV shows like Murdoch Mysteries and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (remember when I burned through all of Kelly Greenwood’s Phryne books like I was in a race?), and then the interest doesn’t wane exactly, it just becomes more manageable. I don’t see my Hamilton crush cooling any time soon, though. I mean, I’m even considering watching the Tony Awards show… and I never watch Awards shows because they are full of bluster and balderdash…and commercials… but I will probably totally watch them on June 12th. Anything for a glimpse of Hamilton… Since I won’t be going to New York any time soon. (And even if I could, who can afford $756 for a shitty nosebleed seat? Plus airfare and hotel and food for a weekend? New York ain’t cheap.)
Anyway, join me in Hamilmania… Do not “throw away your shot” to download the soundtrack to the musical, watch some videos, and fall in love with Alexander Hamilton. (And then let’s hang out and we can wax effusive about Hamilton together!)