Thursday, 19. November 2009 12:27
Starting this website has made me think more about what I like and dislike in art, music and literature, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I tend to like craft more than I like art – and I’m wondering why that is. In just about every discipline I like the well-made rather than the innovative. I like illustration over fine art. I like pop songs over improv jazz. I like adventure novels over literature. I like tap-dance over ballet. I like limericks more than free verse.
I guess you could just call me a middle-class, middle-brow philistine and have done with it – and you wouldn’t be wrong. I’m the guy in the museum who spends two seconds looking at the Rauschenberg and the Pollock, then drools for an hour over the Bouguereau and the Alma-Tadema. Maybe I just don’t get it. But I’m wondering if it’s more than that.
What seems to be at the base of all my likes is structure – and the ability to create something fresh and moving within that structure. In illustration I love to see color, composition, tone, and traditional skill in portraying the human figure put together in a way that touches the emotions. In songwriting, I love hearing a simple verse, chorus, bridge structure that also manages to be thrilling or heartbreaking. In novels, I love a plot that keeps you guessing and engaged, and delivers a satisfying ending and a hammer-blow of emotion on the last page, whether it is joy, sadness, anger or triumph.
Why I gravitate toward this combination of tightly defined form and powerful emotion I don’t know. Maybe I’m an anal retentive than needs to have all his feelings tied up in nice neat packages, but whatever it is, I like it as a writer as well. I love it when someone gives me a box with very specific dimensions and says, “put a story in there.” The challenge for me is finding a way to put in more than just a story – to put emotion and meaning in as well. Writing for TV is like this, as is tie-in writing, but stand-alone novels and short stories have their boundaries and borders too, at least if you’re working in the popular market. You’ve got to hit the marks of the genre, be it castles, space ships, mean streets or suburban angst, but if you don’t do more than that, you’re just a hack. You have put your heart and soul into it, and have skill enough so that heart and soul are revealed in the final product.
I don’t know if I’m there yet, at least not every time, but that’s what I’m striving for. I’m sure my Amazon reviews will tell me if I’ve succeeded or failed.