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February 7th, 2007, 18:15
Originally Posted by dteowner View Post
@Mike- while I have an appreciation for technical competence, I generally scoff at the pretension of the artsy-fartsy types. Did Melville really sit down and say, I'm going to write a book that's actually 7 different symbols at once?
OK, I want to get back to *music* (you said I'd regret making a book analogy ) … but to close out a couple of thoughts:
- I think Melville (and Dostoyevsky and Camus and Sherwood Anderson and Yan Martel and Gabriel Garcia Marquez and so many others) is a tremendously gifted crafter of stories, with an instinct for developing those stories in a very deep and real way. They are highly practiced and polished in their craft through extensive study and work. I believe that they sat down with a story of some significance in their mind, with an aim at making that vision come to fruition in as perfect a fashion as possible.
- How many times have you read a book in which the author fails to maintain proper voice or person? Makes simple grammatical errors or stumbles through paragraphs? Fills pages with … um … filler? I like Star Wars so I read some of those books and even the best of them (Thrawn series) are only average in terms of writing. That doesn't mean they aren't good entertainment, but there is a *very* different feeling reading "Labyrinth of Evil" compared with the thought-provoking and expertly crafted "Life of Pi" by Yan Martel.
- Also, and this is more direct - what do teachers and critics have to do with it? Sure, research and teaching and exploration of art is part of things, but ultimately art is about art.

As for revisionism, that is largely due to popularity trends. Shakespeare was very good at doing what was popular at the time, and over time it was realized that there was significant depth and craft there. He was never considered a 'hack', but wasn't considered 'teh gr3atest' until after his death. That could be called 'perspective'. Same with Mark Twain - he was very popular and made broad use of colloquial speech in his writing, but his reputation as a very serious and gifted novelist was growing long before his death.

I think that there is a real 'art critic' problem with popularity. Taking music as a standard once again - Miles Davis 'electric' work of the 70's was disregarded for many years as being a sell-out, despite having 40+ minute long songs that most considered unlistenable - it was the perception that he was embracing the work of people like Hendrix and James Brown that caused critics to put on blinders. Now, given perspective they can appreciate the great stuff he was creating … of course, I already knew that

But there is a danger mixing Art and Craft as well. Last night on the way home I listened to the entirety of Return to Forever's "Romantic Warrior" (live clip of the song "The Magician" here) - and was reminded of why 'fusion' died such a quick death. It was all craft and not much art. Return to Forever, and particularly that album, was very good and represented a tremendously talented group the likes of which have never been seen in pop/rock - the brilliant pianist/composer Corea, the stunningly fast bassist Clarke and guitarist Di Meola, and the powerhouse drummer Lenny White. But on other recordings of theirs and many many examples from other groups it is all just cold and technically perfect unison runs and rock-showiness.

But I still believe that mastery of craft matters.
-- Mike
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