Friday, June 08, 2007

In Defense of Elitism, Part II

It has occurred to Pretty Lady, pleasant and diverse as this conversation has been, that she is not certain her original point was understood. She is not, and never has been, calling anybody stupid. Her contention was merely that persons who are not familiar with the forms, range, history and conventions of literature are not fit to judge the quality of a single work of literature. That is all.

They may, of course, have an opinion. Pretty Lady may have an opinion as to the elegance and viability of the proof of Fermat's last theorem, as well. That is not to say that Pretty Lady's opinion on this proof amounts to anything more than the opinion of her two feline companions on the screenplay of As Good as it Gets, which Pretty Lady viewed yesterday evening. The felines appeared uninspired by the movie; Pretty Lady herself was pleasantly surprised. It is rare that sappy, predictable love stories are actually accompanied by witty and insightful dialog.

It is all the more astonishing that in this age of Advanced Technology, people seem to forget that in order to assess whether something functions, one first has to test it. Nobody would consider that the design of the latest BMW had set a new standard for perfection in automotive technology if it never left the showroom; why then do people believe that they are competent to judge the effectiveness of a work of literature without having read it, the power of a painting without having viewed it, or the transformative capabilities of a spiritual practice without having practiced it?

Ah. Now we see that Pretty Lady has yet another Deeper Agenda.

For it strikes her that as arrogantly ignorant as people can be regarding the arts, this arrogance is dwarfed by their cavalier views toward the spiritually esoteric. For the mere reading and intellectual analysis of a spiritual text is not at all sufficient to the assessment of the merits of this text. One has to actually try it. Spirituality is not an abstract theory with no bearing on the physical world, except insofar as it is used to justify the ego-will; it is a practice.

Pretty Lady visited, yesterday evening, a regular client of hers. This charming lady has suffered from chronic, unspecific and seemingly acausal physical pain since long before she started working with Pretty Lady. Pretty Lady knows this pain is genuine, because she can feel its consequences.

Yesterday evening, her client seemed much more cheerful than usual. 'I've become a Buddhist,' she declared. 'I've been chanting regularly.' She informed Pretty Lady a bit about the history of her particular branch of Buddhism, the services she attends, and their activities on behalf of World Peace.

But it was when Pretty Lady began work that she sensed the true fruits of this practice. 'Buddhism seems to be good for you. You are more relaxed than I've ever felt,' she exclaimed. Indeed, at the end of the session, the client declared that it had been the least painful session of her life.

Pretty Lady understands, of course, the inadmissibility of the link between correlation and causation. Moreover, she does not prescribe Buddhism as a method of healing pain. However, she finds her client's experience to be a more compelling argument for its practice than twenty volumes of purely theoretical argument against it.


Anonymous said...

"persons who are not familiar with the forms, range, history and conventions of literature are not fit to judge the quality of a single work of literature."

So, I get the judge the quality of many (or perhaps all) works of literature? (Kind of along the lines of Stalin's "One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic"?)

Alrighty, then.

I'll get back to you later with my judgements.


Anonymous said...

Okay, time for my first judgment. Today, we're going to take a look at a little number by a fellow who actually calls himself Leo Tolstoy. (I wonder what name his parents gave him that he considers this an improvement.) The "book" is entitled War and Peace. Let's talk about the length. I thought I was going to strain something just trying to lift this tome. It seems to me that if you can't say what you need to say in 150 pages or less, you should just give up writing and leave a few forests for the rest of us.

That's enough on "Tolstoy". We'll discuss other worthies when we have time. (Perhaps I might even trouble myself to read what they've written. But I don't want to go overboard about it.) Until then, toodles.

Anonymous said...

Today I judge Finnegan's Wake. Before I do so, I need to comment about the author. What can I say about a fellow who goes around with a girl's name? And then he doesn't even know it's supposed to go first. I suppose if my parents saddled me with a moniker like "Joyce James" I'd change it to "James Joyce" too.

Enough of that. Let's get to the actual book. What's going on with starting in the middle of a sentence? I know this is about Ireland, but don't they have anybody who's actually literate in English? And don't even get me started on the spelling. "Armorica"? "Penisolate"? "wallstrait"? It's as if he's writing to mimic the way people pronounce words. Someone needs to tell Joyce or Mr. Joyce or whoever that this language is not very phonetic. Hasn't been since the Normans tried to impose their language on those stupid Angles, Saxons, Jutes, etc. Anyway, after about a page of this garbage I realized I'd read enough. Obviously, there's nothing worth spending time and effort on here.

From now on I evaluate only "authors" whose first language is the same as the one they're writing in.

Catch you later.

Pretty Lady said...

DuckMan, can we say, 'self-indulgent'? I knew we could.

Anonymous said...


Doom said...

I decided to admit something. Though I think you already knew this. I had no idea what you were talking about in part I. *sigh*

On the upside, now that I do understand, I do have to stop and think. Maybe that isn't enough at this point? I know I can be guilty of the sin you describe. I certainly have not read everything, some Russian, English, American, and even in my socialist stages, some German. I finished "Mein Kampf" before I was twelve, though happily I rejected it by the age of fourteen. Still, I know nothing. No matter how much I read, I am told by academics that I just do not understand.

I think I do, I just think I do not understand their way. As well, I have given up on authors. They fail as completely or more than I do, and I'm pretty good at it at times!

Still, I must give your words weight. I do not know what I know so I cannot judge, at least according to the arts. Anyway, I had to come clean on this. I don't know if it makes sense to you, but I feel better.

Oh, did I ever say I really enjoy your writing, and even some of your commentators? Well, I do. The ideas you plant grow well in my intellectual soil.