Ok, so I’m struggling with Infinite Jest right now. I love it, I hate it, I struggle with its weight. But more than anything, I’m blown away by David Foster Wallace’s sheer brilliance and hutzpah. He’s funny, biting, thought-provoking, anger-inducing, and one hell of a writer. Here’s a quote that I read from him regarding the superciliousness of some writers and artists as they blame their audience’s ignorance for the marginalized nature of their art.
Literary fiction and poetry are real marginalized right now. There’s a fallacy that some of my friends sometimes fall into, the ol’ “The audience is stupid. The audience only wants to go this deep. Poor us, we’re marginalized because of TV, the great hypnotic blah, blah.” You can sit around and have these pity parties for yourself. Of course this is bullshit. If an art form is marginalized it’s because it’s not speaking to people. One possible reason is that the people it’s speaking to have become too stupid to appreciate it. That seems a little easy to me.
Yup. Suck it up and work harder and try to reach people. Make the connections, and stop fucking around inside your own head. The artist (and teacher, for that matter) has the greatest charge of all: to take the incomprehensible and make it understandable on all levels for his or her audience. If you can’t do that, then you have failed in your mission. For art is to illuminate, to make real the unreal, to make intelligible the gibberish of modern life.
Art can be hard (think TS Eliot or Wallace Stevens or David Foster Wallace), but the struggle needs to be one that can be won by the reader if he/she puts forth the effort. It should be hard. It makes us better.
That’s why writing matters so much to me. It’s hard. It makes order from chaos. It’s a rush. And we need it to work for us- all of us.
© 2015 – 2016, Brian Stumbaugh. All rights reserved.