River Cuomo Harvard Essay

Speaking of "sensitive rockers," on June 8, as you may have heard, Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo finally finished his coursework and graduated from Harvard. Ten days later, as you also may have heard, he married his girlfried, Kyoko Ito, in Malibu, Calif. In honor of both these simchas, we're happy to present an artifact that nicely combines the two. It's so much on our usual beat, but we've recently come into possession of an essay, titled "A Mad and Furious Master," Cuomo wrote for a Harvard English class in October 2004. It comes from a reliable and Cambridge-connected source who assures us of its provenance, and said source is exceedingly trustworthy on such matters. Want to read about the bespectacled singer's desire for a mate, his fondess for massage-parlor handjobs and internet porn, his self-imposed two years of celibacy, and the frequent wet dreams caused by said celibacy? Oh, it's all there. There's a sample after the jump, plus the whole thing as a Word file.

John Mayer, Miner of Comedy Gold

On Friday night, singer/songwriter John Mayer abandoned his lonely-chick rock persona for a moment…

At first I felt very strong and enjoyed the challenge of disciplining myself. When friends asked in amazement if I found it difficult to abstain under these conditions, I answered stoically, "It's difficult, but probably not as difficult as kicking heroin". Things got more difficult, however, as my body realized that it wasn't going to get any release for a long, long time. I started exhibiting the classic signs of physical frustration: I tossed and turned in bed all night. I hung on for too long when girlfriends hugged me hello or good-bye (they had to pry me off). I spent extra time in the shower, soaping and scrubbing, wistfully. I even had my very first night-time accident, waking up and rolling over onto my back, tears filling my eyes.

I didn't make it any easier on myself by occasionally cheating a little, "accidentally" stumbling onto an adult site while surfing the internet.

"What's this??" I asked myself. "Rate-my-camel-toe.com? Disgraceful! I'd better click on some more pictures here just to make sure my eyes aren't deceiving me."

One time, I even made the incredibly stupid decision of going to a "pajama" party at the Playboy Mansion. I sat by the dance floor the whole night, twitching and drooling, slightly, as hundreds of nearly-naked women writhed en masse to the music. When a warm, wet, female mouth suddenly whispered in my ear, "Let me know if you see anything you like—I can make it happen," my glasses fogged over completely.

I seemed again to be experiencing more suffering than peace. I concluded that modern society was just not conducive to celibate living for a single, successful musician. Marriage, which once had seemed as undesirably permanent as a tattoo, now seemed to be the one, clear hope for my coming out of my longing. It would allow me to have a peaceful physical relationship with one person and continue my work in society without constantly having to fight or give in to the temptations all around. I promised myself to remain celibate until either my wedding day or the end of my vow, whichever came first, and set about trying to find a wife.

A Mad and Furious Master [.doc]

"There are so many difficulties to being a musician, and being a rock star," he said in late January as snow fell outside his room in Sarah Whitman Hall, a red-brick 1911 dorm with arched doorways and wooden banisters smoothed by time. "Here I can escape the pain of my profession. The truth is, I hate to perform. I get such bad stage fright, it makes me physically ill."

Remarking on rumors that his enrollment at Harvard means the end of Weezer, he said, "After graduation, I'll be able to make a better commitment to the band."

Rockdom and college would seem a dangerous pairing, but the room makes no concessions to the possibility of rowdiness or female visitors. As the popular music press incredulously observes at every opportunity, Mr. Cuomo renounced sexual activity two and half years ago, a stretch of abstinence that he says will end this spring when he marries his fiancée, whom he declined to identify.

Mr. Cuomo says his self restraint derives in part from his devotion to vipassana, a strict form of Buddhist meditation. He does two sessions a day seated on a pillow in his closet, his clothes dangling overhead.

In January, Mr. Cuomo gave up the closest thing he has had to a conventional adult home, a converted one-car garage he rented for two years in Hollywood, where he lived with 1930's Spanish colonial furniture and posters of opera singers.

"I must say goodbye to this apartment which has served me so well," he wrote on his blog last month, just before leaving for Harvard. "My future is wide open." When asked if he misses the apartment, Mr. Cuomo responded as he usually does, with a long, ponderous silence.

"I miss the couch the decorator picked out for me," he said after lengthy rumination. "It was comfortable, but I'm not much of a 'misser' in general. I love whatever I'm doing at the moment and completely forget what I was doing before."

When the tour ended, the drummer, Patrick Wilson, and guitarist, Brian Bell, flew to Shreveport, La., to play the roles of John Cale and Lou Reed, members of the Velvet Underground, in "Factory Girl," a movie about Edie Sedgwick and Andy Warhol that is to be released in the fall. Mr. Cuomo, meanwhile, immersed himself in the finer points of literature.

After showing a visitor his modest dorm room library, he was trying to remember when Jane Austen wrote. "I believe 'Sense and Sensibility' was written in the 1700's, and 'Emma' in the 1800's," he said, brow knitted. "She's on the border of both centuries."

"What I am best at," he added, "is reading a book and then writing a critical essay."

This is the fourth time Mr. Cuomo has come off a tour and matriculated at Harvard in his long, on-again, off-again college career, which does not correspond to the conventional schedule but is nevertheless expected to result in a degree this spring.

He completed his freshman year at a community college in Los Angeles before Weezer's eponymous debut album came out in 1994, then enrolled at Harvard as a sophomore in the fall of 1995.

By his own account, he spent a miserable year in a single room. The previous spring he had undergone surgery to correct a physical defect (his right leg was almost two inches shorter than the left). During that first year at Harvard his right leg was in a metal frame; every day he would tighten the screws to elongate the bone. Between classes, Mr. Cuomo took painkillers and rested in bed. "I grew a long beard and walked around with a cane," he said. "The only time I could write songs was when my frozen dinner was in the microwave. The rest of the time I was doing homework."

His only consolation was listening to opera, mostly Puccini. During this period he wrote the songs for "Pinkerton," released in 1996; the album did not sell well. He dropped out of Harvard at about the same time, two semesters short of graduating. He enrolled at Harvard twice more, completing semesters in the spring of 1997 and fall of 2004, before dropping out before the spring semester.

During one hiatus from school, from mid-1998 to 1999, he moved into an apartment under a freeway in Culver City, Calif.

"I became more and more isolated," he wrote in an essay for a Harvard dean, explaining his long absence. "I unplugged my phone. I painted the walls and ceiling of my bedroom black and covered the windows with fiberglass insulation."

After graduation in June, Mr. Cuomo plans to attend the World Cup in Germany and go on a meditation retreat at the Southern California Vipassana Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif. Until then, he is concentrating on student life. "I want to break the habit of jumping from one project to another," he said. "Managing Weezer and then not, ruining relationships with women in the past. I'd get excited about someone, especially if they weren't interested in me, but afterwards I'd lose interest. This caused a lot of damage."

After offering water from his Brita pitcher (he has no refrigerator), Mr. Cuomo invited a visitor to see his electronic diary, an elaborately color-coded Microsoft Excel spreadsheet with live links to blogs, photos and MP3 sites. "I worked on this during various psychotic stages," he said. "I have my entire life here."

The journal is absorbing in a nerdy way, not unlike Mr. Cuomo himself. Under the heading of 1970 it says "birth," and further down he has lyrical variations on "Undone — The Sweater Song," an anthem for Weezer fans. "I'm toying with the idea of putting 'death' as a label on the bottom of the chart," he said, laughing sardonically.

With that, he politely asked to be excused and left to find out if the dining hall was still serving lunch.

Continue reading the main story

One thought on “River Cuomo Harvard Essay

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *