Henry Rollins — The Portable Henry Rollins

To see the august Henry Rollins holding court on his cable television show, you might say to yourself, “Gee, that guy seems like he has it all together. He seems like a really swell individual.” Maybe. For his sake, I hope Rollins has found some peace and understanding in middle age. I know from experience that the years do bring a certain acceptance of the shortcomings of our fellow human beings and the way that life works.

Of course, historically it has not been Rollins’s job to be a paragon of human compassion. I have long enjoyed his giving voice to the frustration of growing up and living through the late 20th century and all its false, hypocritical bullshit. But, Jesus Christ, Henry—if you haven’t done it already—get some help. Life really is a richer experience if you don’t tackle it alone.

As anyone who has a passing interest in Rollins’s written work knows, there are basically two separate men you will encounter: the angry musical one, and the really angry—angry one. At the risk of getting my ass kicked should I ever run into him, I find Henry’s output in the latter category to be too personal, and dare I say, infantile to enjoy.

While I respect the bravery of publishing the deepest, darkest thoughts of your tortured youth, I find it as uncomfortable as reading my own decades-old teenage journals. Thank goodness for the ’02 flood that turned everything in our basement to mud-colored papiermâché.

Then again, I’m not Henry Rollins.

I found this collection of examples from his early output to be evenly split along these same lines. I really enjoyed the excerpts from his tour journals and his later prose, and I’ll definitely make a point of seeking out the full books at some point. Rollins became a better writer the more he did it and some of the stuff from the early ’90s, while not as visceral (or maybe because of that fact), is very well done.

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