Since his death at age 51 of a heart-attack earlier this week, many tributes have been paid to James Gandolfini, who played Tony Soprano in The Sopranos... and though I never saw the HBO series, I enjoyed reading most of these tributes but none more than this one by Lee Siegel, author most recently of the book, 'Are You Serious: How to Be True and Get Real in the Age of Silly.”
In this world of cacophonous confession, Tony was like an LP among digitally embedded playlists.
First on blogs, then on social media, people were encouraged to perform their privacy, to market their interiority. As a result, candor was not what it used to be. In the race to appear unique and appealing, we began to sound the same. Private expression, once on the marketplace, began to lose its authenticity.Pouring his heart out to his shrink — magnificently played by Lorraine Bracco — Tony was a throwback to a time when your deepest thoughts and feelings defined your uniqueness because you so rarely shared them with other people, who seldom confided theirs to you.
Thanks to Mr. Gandolfini’s empathetic genius, Tony became an American creature teeming with an unmasterable inner life that could not be blogged, posted, updated or tweeted. Here, with unforgettable reality, was the whole human mess exposed by a person’s intimate self-disclosures — rather than concealed, as inner life often is now, by the very process of disclosing it.
Mr. Gandolfini’s artistic triumph was to create an asphalt monster with a tender, suburban side, to conjure up a gangster whose exposure of his own brutality offered a relief from our moment of increasingly impersonal social relations.