Apr 4, 2006, 8:49 PM
Post #138 of 235
Re: [HopperFu] craft vs. art, criticisms vs. critique
I find the house painter analogy a bit soggy. Can we try football? Like say, what the Dallas Cowboys do can be learned by anyone, and certainly no one considers them geniuses. At the professional level, even minute advantages confer huge rewards. And I think it's kind of the same with writing. You can look at how Dion is able to score that T.D., even understand the mechanics of his victory dance, but to mimic those actions is another story. It might be beyond your grasp, even after years of effort, but the fact is you understand what's behind it. Mostly genetics and hard work--and your own hard work will bring you closer to those goals. There's no mystery involved. No one ever has to sit around and wonder, Am I really a football player? What will make me a real football player, not just someone who plays football? To me, when we talk about writing, those questions sound equally ridiculous.
I'm an advocate of craft, but the reality is that the difference between good writing and great writing is in that area that transcends craft. If every effect could be quantified, and it was all craft, it would simply be a question of working dilligently and we could all put out works of universal genius. Almost anybody can become an excellent housepainter if they really want to learn how. Almost nobody can become an excellent writer.
I guess I find the romanticism a bit harmful. It functions as an excuse, as an apology, a call to laziness--even as a way to remove the steam from someone's hard work ("Well of course, he's a genius; he's got that one thing."). I don't deny what can't be covered in a writing program, like timeliness, or reader reception, or universality, etc. (Though, come to think of it, universality might warrant a closer look). I just don't think that's where that specialness that we're seeking lies. I tell you, the best writing class I ever had wasn't a workshop, it was a seminar on the linguistic investigation of literature, taught by a world renowned linguist. We were all writers in that class, and the first day we were told to jettison our ideas of hazy transcendence. We looked for corporeal explanations of tone, emotion, it factor, whatever, and we found them. It was very refreshing, and kind of heartening for many people. It gave us the sense that literature is understandable, however obvious that sounds, and through explanation, not superstition, it can be mastered--we had permission to move a little closer to that touchdown dance.
In Reply To
[sibyline] I don't agree with Soviet in thinking of you as a troll, but...I interpret comments like these as clearly inviting an angry response. So I wouldn't call you a troll, though I would probably describe you as trolly in certain circumstances. Well played! Isn't this Sartre, in a nutshell?
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(This post was edited by Junior Maas on Apr 4, 2006, 8:56 PM)