I desperately wish I could fathom just where this idea originates.
It is a remarkably pervasive idea, and to such an extent that things that were popular and contain no angst will frequently receive interpreted doses of the latter to make literary scholars feel better about enjoying them. And obscurity is, somehow, a hallmark of awesomeness and brilliance; though this one I think they feel no need to bother over much with — odds are even that those literary scholars have read more about Gilgamesh than of it. They remind me of Star Wars fandom … enough I oft wonder if there’s significant overlap.
Why, though, must art be tragedy and sorrow? Drama, angst, etc.? Why can art not, too, be sunshine and kittens, laughter and love, romance and spiritual awakening?
Why cannot literary brilliance be measured, in part, by lasting popularity? Why must The Hobbit and Harry Potter be “guilty pleasures”?
Why is the only fiction, supposedly, worth reading ‘literary fiction’ (a pretentious name for any genre or work, I feel)? Why does a story need to answer any question more than ‘what happens next?!’ or ‘will they live happily ever after?’ and so on? It’s not ‘will the hero survive?’ it’s ‘how will the hero get out of this mess?’ Why does this lack literary merit as opposed to twenty pages of someone’s thoughts who is standing in line at a post office (not making it up, don’t remember the title)?
I propose a new definition of art and brilliance. Angst and obscurity be damned!
Any fool with crayons, a pack of construction paper, and enough spare time can write a truly depressing work read by all of twenty-five people — twenty-two of whom share a skull with the author and at least one of whom is a plush horse or a rubber plant.
I hold that art should be, first and foremost, something that you put something of yourself into — I’m not sure if this works for painting and sculpture or not, so we’ll refine that to literary art, just to be safe. That ought to be art; so by that, our madman’s crayoned insanity is still art, but the novelist version of Sven Bianchi from Questionable Content does not make art and probably doesn’t claim to. Second, the brilliance should be measured by if it speaks to people and degree of brilliance should be: Does it do so over and over? If it instils a passion once, it its brilliant — Twilight or Interview With a Vampire, are both art and, to some extent must be brilliant to have sparked such reactions and readerships from people. The Hobbit and Little Women do it, though, through hundreds of repeat readings for uncounted readers. People come back to Mr Baggins rushing out the door without hat nor handkerchief, and relive the (mis)adventures of Jo and her sisters. They are masterpieces.
There is, and ever has been, too much literature to say popularity alone speaks of brilliance. Always some really amazing work lurks, largely, undiscovered. Game of Thrones is a fair example. It languished in veritable obscurity for nearly a decade. Black Trillium is, I feel, another fine example. With a, sadly, increasing tendency, the strange dreams of young Alice is not read — but for those who take the notion, they come ever back again to Wonderland. Still, popularity and its perpetuity is a fine test. No one disputes that old Bill Shakespeare is a literary legend … well, not anyone who wasn’t alive when his plays were new. The poems of Lady Sappho must have been phenomenal — they are all of them lost yet, still, she is not forgotten.
Why must we make things so blasted cerebral to feel good about them? Fun and beautiful should not be so shameful. Perhaps ‘the masses’ know better what is good and will stand the test of time better than the literary elitist.
Few are liable to agree with me who are ‘serious writers’, but such is life. I’ll read my Princess of Mars, they’ll read Pride and Prejudice; I’ll read Wizard of Oz and they can read The Yellow Wallpaper … to each her own. After all, there’s no accounting for taste.
- The 2014 Our Writing Process Blog Hop (jenniferfgarcia.com)
- Angsty Drawing to take the Angst away (decemberscurse.wordpress.com)
- “Angsty” Pose (cheryljewelle.wordpress.com)
- More Machine Than Man (ableurchindog.wordpress.com)
- Well Hi There! I’m Angsty. What’s Your Name? (irkedsilly.wordpress.com)