Friday, February 15, 2008

Back on Topic

First of all, read this entire post. Here is my fabby fav part:

"We don't know much about how the brain works but it would be obvious that the human brain evolved to meet the requirements of humans. Therefore, the stories we consider the best are the ones that meet our requirements as humans in terms of helping us to remain alive.

Aristotle's Poetics then can be seen as an insight into neuroscience. That is, his Poetics is a guide to what our minds are looking for: stories with a beginning, middle, and end. An antagonist, and a protagonist. The notion of a recognition -- we ought to learn something from a story. On a greater scale a story should tell us what to do in life, and how to think. It should have a great narrative in it about what life is about, and how we will find peace and success.

Contemporary art largely has turned away from these concerns, and it is why it has lost its market share among the hoi polloi, while people increasingly go instead to the movies. Contemporary art sees art itself as the story to which it belongs, and so it has become separate from the human story. This is why popular art -- everything from Dilbert to the latest action film -- still is held dear -- whereas Jackson Pollock will always be -- an evolutionary mistake."

Damn. I don't think I could have said it better myself.

Now for the hard part. Dilbert and the latest action movies may get more lost in the mix than Mr. Pollock (though I think the fish himself is a poor example) because Jacky was trying something new (or applying being a kid to painting. . .). At any rate, we come upon the major quandry of my writing life:

How to appeal to the most people possible without sucking ass.

I am not looking here for the difference between "Take a Chance On Me" by Abba and "Heroin" by The Velvet Underground. That's like comparing Spielberg to Greenaway. One is obviously bucking for a larger audience while one is embracing obfuscation and "hip intelligence."

No, what I'm talking about is the difference between, say "Baby, Baby" and "Jeremy." Both were wildly popular and commercially successful during my waning Junior High days. Both are readily understandable -- there's no obfuscation here. There's a difference, however, between the two. Both of quality and sustainibility. "Baby, Baby" is merely a one-off piece of pop cuteness. "Jeremy" addressed the phenomenon of school shootings before any of the famous ones happened. "Baby, Baby" is silly and detached. "Jeremy" is gritty and, above all, real.

If we can have the novel equivalents of these two songs, why can't we have the poetic equivalent, at least in this century? But all we get stuck with is poets trying to be Peter Greenaway and The Velvet Underground -- trying to be Jackson Pollock with words.

The problem with this is, kids:


The avant garde is no longer avant garde once it has been done once. After that it is rank imitation. We need to get off our asses and stop trying to "make it new" so much that we forget how to "make it good."

And since Aristotle has shown us that what we dearly love is a story, let's give us some.


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