Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thoughts on The Craft -- c.anne.gardner

A novel is a commodity that fulfils a certain need; people need to buy daydreams like they need to buy ice cream or aspirin or gin. They even need to buy a pinch of intellectual catnip now and then to liven up their thoughts..." -- John Dos Passos

I once, in my infinite stupidity, asked another writer if they wanted to be an artist or an entertainer, when in reality, there isn't exactly a hard line distinction between the two. Intellectuals find literary works to be quite entertaining, just in a very different way than a commercial piece fiction would be. And by commercial, I mean your average escapist beach read, knowing full well that that also means different things to different people. Some might say that category fiction, fiction that is written to a very specific formula, is less art and more light entertainment than other sorts of fiction, but I have read category fiction written as richly as a classic literary piece, and I have read literary works that were not long, morose, and laboriously boring walks through the human house of pain either.

One thing I particularly like about Dos Passos quote is that I like the idea that people are buying daydreams when they purchase a book. They are buying our daydreams, and some people want something light and fun, others want something intellectually stimulating: some want high concept, and some want deeply conceptual.

The definition of Art states that Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging symbolic elements in a way that influences and affects the senses, emotions, and/or intellect.

The definition of Entertainment is that Entertainment consists of any activity which provides a diversion or permits people to amuse themselves in their leisure time.

So if we overlay the two, we can say, without stretching the facts, that a daydream is a diversion, and if it affects your senses, emotions, and/or your intellect, then that daydream is Art.

As writers, we create the daydreams, which means we are artists and entertainers. How could we be anything else? I apologize to Will for my moronic question.

So ... who is going to make the argument about porn first? It's most definitely a diversion and most definitely affects the senses and the emotions ... in some cases, it can even affect the intellect, specifically in those instances where I am wondering the whole time how the parties involved even managed to get that elbow there and that foot over there and still be effective enough to induce screaming with orgasmic delight while at the same time managing not to injure anyone in the process. And yes, joking aside, IMO, there are cases where something technically classified as porn can be art. I guess what I am trying to say is that literary fiction can be entertaining and mainstream fiction can in fact be art. I’ll just stick to my daydreams and leave the classifications to someone else.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

The Art this week is The Apothecary by Pietro Longhi circa 1752


Jim Murdoch said...

Labels are a two-edged sword. There are so many products out there that we need a way to reduce our choices to something manageable but as soon as we do that we’re faced with the problem of pigeonholing. You’ve read my books and you know that they’re not easily classifiable. Some people have read them and just found them fun reads; others can see that the real message is a deadly serious one.

Porn, to my mind, can be defined by its intent which is to arouse, as opposed to educate or entertain. It can do more than that but what else people get from porn often depends on the reader as opposed to the writer and what he’s looking for. As a writer you know full well that there’s surface-looking and deep-looking. Porn because of its very nature makes looking for deep meaning hard because the superficial is so compelling but it’s not impossible.

Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

This sort of discussion always makes me think of that Penthouse cover where it's half a naked woman in a meatgrinder. I remember the first time I saw it, it just blew me away.

As for the compelling factor, yes, some fiction is simply compelling and seach for deeper meaning is a hard sell, and then there is some lit fiction that is slathered in deep meaning and yet lacks the compelling nature many prefer in a narrative. Those that can combine the two have it made, but again, it's all personal preception. What's compelling? What's superficial? What's deep? My opinion, of course, would be biased.