Thursday, April 26, 2007

Some Favorites

A masterpiece is a benchmark, the best of. They say this is purely subjective, a matter of preference, of taste. They’re wrong. It’s clearly objective, constant, and universal. Like the sun, it shines. Favorite short story - THE LITTLE ROBOT by Bill Ectric. Can’t show and tell ‘cause it’s not available on-line. But it’s a great story. Some great writing that is on-line - excerpt from Brett Savory’s The Distance Travelled. While we’re at it, how ‘bout a great song - TV Child by 99 Burning. Words, music, clear vocals, so deep bass and thumping drum beats, lilting guitar. Yes John, it’s a pretty song; a great song.


Charlene Martel said...

I haven't yet read The Distance Travelled but I did read the follow up chapbook: The Distance Travelled: A Little Slice of Heaven and that was a brilliant read.

chapman said...

i don't like to argue, either for the fun of it or "in the service" of some idea.

i only want to say that my experience doesn't let me declare that there are objective great things, including objectively great artworks.

there are plenty of things i call great. what i mean by "that's great" is, "for me that was great."

i do not enjoy it if somebody makes fun of something i consider great. like if they sneered at a beethoven quartet, i wouldn't like that.

but when that happens, the experience is so out-of-balance that it doesn't matter.

in other words, the sneering takes the form of a shit-talking sentence on a blog, or said out loud. the sentence is never an incredibly beautiful sentence, and it's very rare that the sentence expresses any new form of enlightenment or knowledge.

on the other side, you have a beethoven quartet, which is 45 minutes long, and every moment of which is emotional, complex, and earnest.

the sentence does not harm the quartet. in fact the quartet tends to destroy the sentence, and make the person who said the sentence look foolish.

so it is a self-regulating system. opinions are small and weak, even if they say "great" or "bad," or use gigantic words in place of those two--they are still just chitchat.

if, over time, a gigantic number of people shit-talk a particular artwork, for instance "pilgrim's progress," then there may be a result in the practical world, like that teachers will stop trying to teach "pilgrim's progress" in school. since the students do not enjoy it and are thereby being taught that reading is unenjoyable.

"pilgrim's progress" was for a long time considered a masterpiece, and great. today it is not so much talked about. if you read it and you love it and are overwhelmed by it, you say it's a great work, you have had the experience the author wanted you to have.

old copies of the book still exist, and can be read, even if everybody on earth says it's not very good. the book exists and can't be harmed by opinion.

maybe that book will come back in fashion again and will be called objectively great by people. that doesn't matter either. what matters is the single reader's private experience with the book.

the important word implied in "great" is "love." you love your girlfriend. other people might not like her. other people might not know what you see in her at all. it doesn't matter what they think, you know better. that is true.

there is no sense, though, is declaring that by objective standards, your girlfriend is one of the great humans ever, is in the pantheon of the most great persons who have ever lived. by doing that you'd be confusing your private experience with the private experiences of all the other people who have girlfriends.

nobody can tell you there's anything wrong with your girlfriend.

yet it's possible that you will break up with her later, and you may have a completely different opinion later. then what has happened to the pantheon of great humans?

i could have written an essay a while ago explaining all the reasons that mahler is a bad composer. i could have proved by appealing to universal opinions and universal taste.

but there is no universal taste. everything you love, somebody else hates it. your love, their hate, neither of these changes the nature of the thing itself.

now i love mahler. i was wrong, it turns out. i'm happy to have come around and discovered what's great in mahler.

but if i hear somebody dissing mahler, i know i can't force them to like mahler by saying "but mahler is objectively great." even i didn't used to think so.

they have to come around by themselves.

so now i don't think so much of my opinions. i know they change, and that they're private. it's actually great that they're private. because your opinions, your feelings, your loves--they are yourself. it's good to understand that, so that you understand yourself more.

chapman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chris killen said...

hey. thanks for the comment. HP did all the work, really.