Sunday, March 09, 2003

I can barely listen to Politicians in this country. Dean is talking to Russert as I write and his arguments are so middling; its an embarrassment to anyone who has an opinion, about anything at all.

I'm going to the Velazquez-Manet show today, but I'll tie up some loose ends before I go:
First I want to clarify my post on T.S. Eliot. Eliot's politics are repugnant, but I don't defend his poems because they're politically neutral—they aren't. They're as reactionary as he is. But they are an honest description of the mind of a reactionary. They are the poetry of reaction. There is no better antidote to the ideological defense of monarchy than the rambling monologues of an impotent and asexual nihilist desperate to maintain a sense of even the shadow of absolute moral order. It is heartbreaking to watch him cobble his arguments together. But brilliant obfuscation is still brilliant, and he is forced by circumstance and by his respect for order that his form has be so modern to be true. After all, modernity is all he knows. He can't allow himself to fall for cheap nostalgia. I read Eliot and still get a chill up my spine.

Arthur Schlesinger, that ass-kissing creep, has a piece on Henry Adams' 'Democracy' in the New York Review this week. Schlesinger talks about Adams' conflicted sympathies concerning the various characters as if somehow Adams should have made up his mind. The request is laughable. In the same issue Aileen Kelly has a piece on Dostoevsky documenting the long attempt of a few to make clear, to us in the west, the importance of the relationship between Dostoevsky's intellectual and artistic lives. But why should there even be a question? The intellectual life of this country is still so immature that intellectuals still have no idea what art is.

The words in a piece of writing may describe a blue sky and happiness, and the author may even imagine that that is what the piece is about, but the sentence structure, the phrasing, the music of the sounds of the letters strung together as you speak them may spell out despair. Do you think Milton wanted the Devil to get all the good lines?
That's why it's called "art". The artist creates a structure that he/she decides is right. If he's lucky he nails it, according to some principle or other. And that principle has as much to do with rhyme or paint as a drawing room comedy has to do with furniture -they are all props- and everything to do with family, god, rationalism, nihilism, democracy athiesm, sex, or any other subject you can name. Those subjects in whatever form they appear to the maker, are then not illustrated -if the thing is good enough- but made manifest in the product itself. Of course the result is contradictory. If it weren't contradictory it wouldn't be very interesting. Even Fra Angelico is contradictory, he's just so gracious it seems too violent a word to use.

It seems to me that since we now look at religious art with athiest eyes we forget that subject matter exists for all art. Add this to our moralizing protestant streak, and it makes sense that we in this country make our art in secret and then deny it. The Blues. Jazz. Hollywood.

It may seem odd to use this as an illustration but it fits. I ran into John Waters on the street last night, and we chatted for a bit. I've know him as a friendly stranger for a few years, through CDL. And he has a show up now at the gallery. John is in the Eliot mold in a sense: innately conservative, but aware of the emptiness of it; he wants to take himself seriously but can't (but does in secret), caught between high, low, and now middle. There's a lot of sadness to him, but it's manic.

What a country.

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