A Bee Contemplates Buzzing
The Definition of High Art
Sunday, January 8, 2006 8:46 pm
Despite having been a writer for decades now and having had the unsurprising and frequent inclination, as a producer of art, to contemplate the nature of art, it was many years until I realized something that I think is very true.
Let me begin by stating the obvious: All works are not substantially equal. However much the academics might want to de-privilege the canon, there remains a qualitative difference between high art and low art. This, to be sure, is not news. If you think I am merely about to scoff at academics who overpraise hip-hop or graffiti, you would be wrong. Such academics, however much they perdure, have been adequately ridiculed already. My question is only this: Given the obvious fact that some art is high and some low, what is it, in the end, that distinguishes high from low? And my answer is this: Depth of information.
Marriage Isn't a Lark, After All
The Carter Family Gets Incendiary!
Monday, May 30, 2005 6:49 pm
When I was a teenager and I started to read Great Literature, I read Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. You know what struck me then more than anything else? That a book written in the 1860s should be about an axe murderer. My miseducation to that point had not prepared me for the idea that past ages might just know a thing or two about horrible, sad, or sordid things — and, more to the point, that past ages might be unafraid to talk about them.
Mankind has been doing the same blasted thing for thousands of years. Yet it is an annoying conceit of this era that, until now, man has been naive about his own circumstances. Because civilization once aspired to better circumstances and once celebrated ideals, it is supposed that civilization was once ignorant of all our shortcomings and squalor. In fact, our civilization has simply despaired of ideals.