Friday, August 25, 2006

Amen, brother ...

... Scott Stein In Praise of Consumer Culture. I think it worth noting that much "high culture" goes out of its way to turn off the average consumer. I can't begin to say how weary I am of most contemporary classical music (the stuff that has tunes gets ignored) and a lot of contemporary drama ( half-baked sermons), pretentious indie films, equally pretentious "literary" fiction.


  1. The trouble with these arguments is that they're all too often an either/or proposition. Why can't we accept that both high and low culture - sorry, I don't like the terms any better than you but use them for want of better - exist in tandem; bleed into and enrich each other. In literature David Mitchell, Jonathan Lethem, and Rupert Thomson are currently perfect examples, but there are many others.

  2. And how would you describe your own blog here? As far as I can see, it's often "me too" posts kissing up to some gossipy lit-biz fluff like The Publishing Contrarian -- you actually congratulated her the other day for going to some party where she got to kiss up to the latest hot items.

    This is a reason people don't read papers any more. Once there was H.L.Mencken, now there's you.

  3. It seems that, when it comes to the truly great - Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Dickens, Chaucer - the distinction between high and low disappears. I certainly agree that the categorization tells us nothing about the quality of the work. There are great thrillers, good thrillers, bad thrillers. There are also books that get touted simply because they ape the gestures of so-called "high" art. I guess what it comes down to is that there are great books, good books, not-so-good books, and bad books.

  4. Well, John, as Mencken liked to put it, there is much in what you say. Luckily for you there are plenty of other blogs that are doubtless be more to your superior taste.
    The point of this blog - since you seem to have missed it - is to post links to things that I, for various reasons, have found interesting, sometimes offering comment.
    No one is obligated to like what I or anybody else writes. I certainly never bother myself with things I don't like. I suggest you do like me.

  5. Frank, there's lots of us who appreciate the many and interesting tidbits you post, and their variety, plus your own take when you're so inclined.

    John, it's obvious that this blog isn't meant to offer long pieces of literary or cultural criticism, and if you read Frank's Inquirer reviews, you might find more of what you're looking for. It sounds as though you're criticising a centipede for having more legs than a beetle!

  6. Thanks, Lee, much obliged.

  7. Anonymous5:46 PM

    This topic intrigues me, because I believe we need both high and low culture, just as we need both Le Bec Fin and Taco Bell.

    To me, it breaks down like this: Art and entertainment. All art is entertaining (perhaps simply on the level of the fineness of its language -- if it's word art -- or the originality of its idea --any art form, or...You can fill in the blanks) but not all entertainment necessarily rises to the level of 'art.' (Sometimes it does, of course, and sometimes it simply defies categorization.)

    For example, I used to love to read Anne Rice's vampire novels (not anymore -- she's in desperate need of an editor to pare down those 10,000-word descriptions of Garden District architecture), but I'd never call them art. They entertained, certainly, but they would fail most tests that I'd normally apply to fine literature (too long here to go into, but economy of language, original use of metaphor, multiple levels of meaning are some of the criteria).

    In the nineteenth century, the simple distinction between high art and low art in novel-writing was that the former was character-driven and the latter was plot-driven.

    But Frank is talking, I think, about yet another category -- Lugubriousness, perhaps. Things That Take Themselves Too Seriously. Explain, Frank, a bit more.

    BTW, I *love* David Mitchell and though his pastiche of genres in _Cloud Atlas_ included everything but a comic strip, that was definitely ART.