Saturday, September 5, 2020


Someone on Quora asked if Jim Morrison is considered a genius. This is how I answered:
"The Doors were a mixed bag for me; the first two albums are among the most important rock albums of all time, with the remainder alternating between the proverbial poles of brilliance and balderdash. As a band, they were simply sublime and unique, with the odd combination of blues, flamenco, classical, jazz, Artaud and epic theater being crafted in their hands to create a sound and feel that was singular and instantly identifiable. As a vocalist, Jim Morrison was often as evocative as the greatest fans proclaim, and it fit the half-awake twilight that seemed to be his constant state of consciousness. As a poet, though, I thought he was simply awful, fragmented, crypto-mystic surrealism that, save for some striking and memorable lines, collapsed from its flimsy elisions and obtuse vagaries. In his posthumous collections,, the pieces read too often like the notebook jottings of an introspective 17-year-old. I say that as one who was an introspective 17 year and is now an introspective 65-year-old. Morrison might have become the poet he wanted to be had he been able to write, edit, and finesse his work as he desired when he left for Paris. What I will say, though, is that being the vocalist in the Doors gave him the opportunity to go through his writings, his poems, and select many of the stronger passages for the band's more theatrical songs. The Doors, ironically seemed to be an institutional editor for Morrison's words, forcing the bard to decide which of his jottings was actually the most powerful, concise, emphatic."

A question posed to me on the Quora website asked "Why isn't literature considered art?". I had a few minutes to kill and offered this response. The benefit of writing a response was that it gave me something to think about besides the apocalyptic geist that makes staying awake such a burden. Here it is:
....Who ever said that literature was not art is either very dumb or is someone who is looking for attention . There is the assumption , sadly held by many, that art is only visual, as in paintings, drawings, sculpture. This is incorrect, an alarmingly false attitude. Art is a broader expressive activity involving all manner of mediums. But rather than go into a long piece of writing defining art as something that transcends a narrow conceptualization, I’ll just quote the definition of the word provided by Google Search:

“ (1)…the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
“(2)…the various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, literature, and dance.”
This concise definition of the word “art” correctly broadens the horizons of the things can be considered “art” in the fullest sense: novels, poems, plays, operas, classical music, pop songs, dance and choreography , design, architecture, jazz improvisation, acting, film making…it goes on and is nearly unlimited. The far more interesting discussion , instead of whether non visual mediums can be art in the fullest sense, is exactly how productions like novels, films, dance, poetry, and so on, are “artful”. It’s an actual kind of discussion and discipline that distinguishes the great, the good, the mediocre and the awful, and it considers how history, changing social conditions , influences and attitudes, and new technologies, factor into the quality or the failure of particular works of art in all mediums. None of those matters are ever settled, of course, but it’s an intriguing dialogue where art lovers can share with one another their interpretations of art objects they consider worth making note of.
Asked on Quora: Was Norman Mailer a mysoginist?
Mailer was obsessed with a notion of heterosexual masculinity, culled from his idealization of Hemingway and especially D. H. Lawrence. His writings on the subject are fascinating , and his assertions and literary criticism in his polemic “The Prisoner of Sex” are often brilliant and on point as he takes on feminist theories, but with all the force and grace the prose provides, Mailer insisted women take a secondary position in society and in all social relations, secondary to men. He would recount that his nay saying and the insults and violent fantasies were expressions of respect rather than contempt, and perhaps that is what he honestly thought, consciously, he was doing. All said, though, Mailer seemed rather to be trying to work some matters out in both his social and philosophical ideas, and in his fiction. His attitude regarding the role women play in is a conception of a reality where every player is on an existential path of self-definition constantly prefers the experience and success of the male over the female, with accompanying rationalizations that the advance of women toward an equal social and political status upsets the spiritual ecology . The only thing I can take away from that attitude, expressed and refined for decades, is an active contempt for women, misogyny when all is said.Joyce Carol Oates has some wonderful essays on Mailer that are worth seeking out on this man and his relationship to womankind. Mailer was a writer of large gifts and frequent genius who had issues that make appreciating his best work forever problematic.
_________________________________________________________________________________________Some one Quora asked whether Chet Baker , a fine trumpeter, was a good poet. I answered this way:

Metaphorically, perhaps. He was a melodic improvisor, embellishing the melody with short, pleasing phrases, building his solos to a well modulated crescendo where there would some subtle and stately expression of his technical facility, and then he would bring the mood down again, easing back into the ensemble . At his best, Baker’s best solos, with their hushed tone, use of space between phrases, and his superb note choices from the many available to him, made his solos memorable. That could be said to be “poetic” and that he , as the creator, was the author of that expression, more specifically, a “poet”. All that, though, stretches the term too much, I think, and does no justice to either Baker or to actual writer poets. Baker was a musician, a jazz improviser, and he created in a great art form. Comparing him to another art form, poetry, degrades his impressive accomplishment.

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