Saturday, March 03, 2007

Enjoying and studying

I referred to Ode to the Easily Outraged by Kevin Smith in my review of Black Snake Moan.

I know there are various reasons why one could disagree with the comparison between that film's writing and that of William Faulkner, and I'm probably not currently in a mood to carry on a particularly extensive debate. Nor would I even dare to consider that opinion without merits of its own.

I think that kind of outrage, however, is a symptom of letting literature die.

You know the death I mean, right?

It's where people pick up a book thinking that they are about to experience Great Literature. It's a different feeling than picking up, y'know, a book.

While I think art, old and new, is worth pondering. It is to be studied and examined from all angles. Poking and prodding to see how it stands up. It is to be discussed and dissected. Written about and taught.

But all of that is for after it has been enjoyed.

I've read much of the great works of literature, watched great plays and films and gloried in great paintings. And those I've appreciated the most were the ones I started from the same place I would if I was sitting down to the newest paperback bestseller, potboiler or hack job. Is this a ripping yarn? Is this an interesting story? Is this a nice picture?

If art doesn't work as any of these, then it doesn't work.

The worst thing we can to them is relegate them to a world in which they are sacrosanct and can't be discussed for what makes them enjoyable.

You see, Mr. Grant, by allowing your outrage to disallow the comparison, you not only keep the Faulkner fans from accidentally stumbling onto a movie they may turn out not to like, but also keep fans of Black Snake Moan (or Kevin Smith) from discovering Faulkner and possibly turning out to like him.

Art must breathe. It must continue being discussed. The other choice is to become musty and irrelevant. I'd rather my favorite artists and works were compared to a thousand lesser works than to simply die on the shelf, enshrined as too good to be discussed or examined.

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