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Julian Karswell
04-18-2009, 09:50 PM
No, it is not a reference to a new base art of Italian torture, but rather to the sadistic agony experienced in attempting to write / draw / sculpt / compose something of worth. Any fool with an ego, a patron or an attitude can create and inflict a work of breathtakingly ghastliness upon a liberal, gullible audience.

For a while I resided in Reading (Berkshire, UK). In the one-and-only mall it once boasted was a hideous purveyor of gimmicky plastic trash such as 'dream catchers' and 'electric orbs'. They only survived because in the neighbouring unit was a low-key, low-priced retailer of second-hand records (from whom I purchased such gems as early LPs by The Fall, The Cure and Fad Gadget).

YouTube - Broadcast Yourself.

(Poor bastard died of a heart attack in his early 40s.)

I once challenged the owner, a flashly 1980s yuppie type who had a habit of dashing off to the the bathroom to powder his nose, about the name of his shop.

"Why do you call it "But is it Art?""

He smiled at me as if I was an ignorant gothic teenager with who was trying to hide pinprick'd stoned eyes behind John Cale sunglasses (which I was).

"Because it's utter ####e but I can get away with selling it as art."

I never bought anything there because I spent my money next door, but the girls who worked there were hot, whereas the Kings Of Leon hippies in the record shop looked like.....well, the Kings Of Leon pre Sex On Fire.

[Which, I might add, as a long-standing KoL fan, is a song that transcends critique: it is simply - and sublimely - brilliant.)

But back to flagellation. To subvert the example of Shylock - and it might be judicious here to mention that I am 1% Jewish - thought it's always negotiable, I have my overheads to consider, sheesh - my theory is that a good writer / artist / composer etc cuts an ounce of flesh from his body to create anything of worth. Any fool (especially a knowledgeable fool) can pick up a pen or guitar but very few can create a new idea and then present it in an original style to make it a thing of worth.

But surely the hardest part of the process is the tortuous, drawn-out process of having to sit down an at your computer, easel or lump of clay to create the initial skeletal buckaroo-body upon which all else so fraily hangs. Any architect worth his salt can gild the cupolas or embellish the eaves, but present him with a few hectares of unchartered wilderness and a sketch pad, and I'm sure that most would run helter-skelter for the comfort zone of a cosy council planning job.

["Not a lot of people know that Gothic Literature was inspired by visionary landscape gardeners such as 'Capability' Brown" - Michael Caine, 'The Ipcress File'.*]

Hey, this is funny:

YouTube - Women Know Your Limits

JK

* This is a false fact.

hopfrog
04-18-2009, 11:33 PM
I used to suffer from something akin to your flagellatio cos I wanted to create Literary Art as Lovecraft did -- beautiful and poetic weird fiction -- but I knew that I lacked what it took to be an original artist; but I also knew that nothing would stop me from writing, because writing was the thing that made life worthwhile. There was a kind of torment in realising my inadequacy, and there still is, when I read really breath-taking and original weird fiction by masters such as Thomas Ligotti and Laird Barron and Joe Pulver. It's strange, the sense of terror one can feel in writing weird fiction and throwing it into the public arena, knowing that it will be picked to shreds by heartless critics. But the compulsion to write cannot be dissuaded -- because it is the thing that brings real joy to an otherwise useless and empty existence.

Happily, I have found the sub-genre in which I can express everything that writhes within me, in the glorious Lovecraft tradition. I laugh when people used to tell me that I need to stop trying to be Lovecraft and just be myself as a writer -- these clueless morons simply don't understand that one can be utterly oneself even when writing in the shadow of a literary titan. It reminded me of all the grown-ups, twenty-five years ago, who reassured me that punk rock was something I would outgrow in a few years. They're still waiting. When people try to advise me to stop writing Lovecraftian weird fiction and find my own voice and vision, my wanker-reply is always, "Oh, I'm not Lovecraftian enough."

Lovecraft suffered big-time from this flagellation -- yet when good-hearted friends and critics try'd to talk him out of his "artistic pose," he wisely ignor'd yem and strove to create literary art. He and E. Hoffmann Price exchang'd many letters on the subject. I've been slowly reading the two volumes of ESSENTIAL SOLITUDE, the letters of H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth; and there is much discussion of the Art of writing weird fiction -- it's a word Lovecraft using always in regards to writing. I love his reply to Frank Long: "Fantastic literature cannot be treated as a single unit, because it is a composite resting on widely divergent bases. I really agree that 'Yog-Sothoth' is a basically immature conception, & unfitted for really serious literature. The fact is, I have never approached serious literature as yet....The only permanently artistic use of Yog-Sothothery, I think, is in symbolic or associative phantasy of the frankly poetic type; in which fixed dream-patterns of the natural organism are given an embodiment & crystallisation. The reasonable permanence of this phase of poetic phantasy as a POSSIBLE art form (whether or not favoured by current fashion) seems to me a highly strong probability."

There is something laughably absurd in those of us with second-rate talent trying so seriously to write fiction that is worth reading; and yet there is also something noble, to my mind, in striving for excellence, no matter how short one falls. It is now the core of my concentration, to write the best weird fiction of which I am capable, because I love the genre so much and ache so desperately to be a part of it. Happily, the Lovecraft tradition is perfectly suited to my style and goals as a writer. It is the one tradition in which I can express everything that churns within my wither'd brain. And there is a sweetness in knowing that one's work has brought a bit of joy and pleasure in this sad sad world. I'm a bit cynical about praise from fans, or grumbling from clueless critics -- the only critic whose opinion means anything to me is S. T. Joshi. I think one writes essentially for oneself. It's enough for me to have print-runs of 300 or 500.

There is no joy, certainly, in flagellation. But I've discovered that it is impossible to judge one's own fiction rationally. The stories that I always consider my worse were constantly chosen for honourable mentions in YBF&H, and in THE RISE & FALL OF THE CTHULHU MYTHOS, S. T. claims that my worst book is in fact my finest. I've given up trying to judge myself. I strive now to live the Henry James quotation that is my signature, to do my blessed soul-saving work, to write with all of my ability, scant though it may be; and pray that some of the madness of art may be reflected in my books. If one MUST do it -- then strive to do one's best. There will always be those ungenerous souls who will judge and condemn you and your work -- but they have nothing to add to the substance of life. Do your work, and do it well -- and then be grateful to those generous souls who take a chance and publish your efforts, and love those kind-hearted friends who tell you, "Well done."

Joe Pulver
04-19-2009, 12:19 AM
I used to suffer from something akin to your flagellatio cos I wanted to create Literary Art as Lovecraft did -- beautiful and poetic weird fiction -- but I knew that I lacked what it took to be an original artist; but I also knew that nothing would stop me from writing, because writing was the thing that made life worthwhile. There was a kind of torment in realising my inadequacy, and there still is, when I read really breath-taking and original weird fiction by masters such as Thomas Ligotti and Laird Barron and Joe Pulver. It's strange, the sense of terror one can feel in writing weird fiction and throwing it into the public arena, knowing that it will be picked to shreds by heartless critics. But the compulsion to write cannot be dissuaded -- because it is the thing that brings real joy to an otherwise useless and empty existence.

Happily, I have found the sub-genre in which I can express everything that writhes within me, in the glorious Lovecraft tradition. I laugh when people used to tell me that I need to stop trying to be Lovecraft and just be myself as a writer -- these clueless morons simply don't understand that one can be utterly oneself even when writing in the shadow of a literary titan. It reminded me of all the grown-ups, twenty-five years ago, who reassured me that punk rock was something I would outgrow in a few years. They're still waiting. When people try to advise me to stop writing Lovecraftian weird fiction and find my own voice and vision, my wanker-reply is always, "Oh, I'm not Lovecraftian enough."

Lovecraft suffered big-time from this flagellation -- yet when good-hearted friends and critics try'd to talk him out of his "artistic pose," he wisely ignor'd yem and strove to create literary art. He and E. Hoffmann Price exchang'd many letters on the subject. I've been slowly reading the two volumes of ESSENTIAL SOLITUDE, the letters of H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth; and there is much discussion of the Art of writing weird fiction -- it's a word Lovecraft using always in regards to writing. I love his reply to Frank Long: "Fantastic literature cannot be treated as a single unit, because it is a composite resting on widely divergent bases. I really agree that 'Yog-Sothoth' is a basically immature conception, & unfitted for really serious literature. The fact is, I have never approached serious literature as yet....The only permanently artistic use of Yog-Sothothery, I think, is in symbolic or associative phantasy of the frankly poetic type; in which fixed dream-patterns of the natural organism are given an embodiment & crystallisation. The reasonable permanence of this phase of poetic phantasy as a POSSIBLE art form (whether or not favoured by current fashion) seems to me a highly strong probability."

There is something laughably absurd in those of us with second-rate talent trying so seriously to write fiction that is worth reading; and yet there is also something noble, to my mind, in striving for excellence, no matter how short one falls. It is now the core of my concentration, to write the best weird fiction of which I am capable, because I love the genre so much and ache so desperately to be a part of it. Happily, the Lovecraft tradition is perfectly suited to my style and goals as a writer. It is the one tradition in which I can express everything that churns within my wither'd brain. And there is a sweetness in knowing that one's work has brought a bit of joy and pleasure in this sad sad world. I'm a bit cynical about praise from fans, or grumbling from clueless critics -- the only critic whose opinion means anything to me is S. T. Joshi. I think one writes essentially for oneself. It's enough for me to have print-runs of 300 or 500.

There is no joy, certainly, in flagellation. But I've discovered that it is impossible to judge one's own fiction rationally. The stories that I always consider my worse were constantly chosen for honourable mentions in YBF&H, and in THE RISE & FALL OF THE CTHULHU MYTHOS, S. T. claims that my worst book is in fact my finest. I've given up trying to judge myself. I strive now to live the Henry James quotation that is my signature, to do my blessed soul-saving work, to write with all of my ability, scant though it may be; and pray that some of the madness of art may be reflected in my books. If one MUST do it -- then strive to do one's best. There will always be those ungenerous souls who will judge and condemn you and your work -- but they have nothing to add to the substance of life. Do your work, and do it well -- and then be grateful to those generous souls who take a chance and publish your efforts, and love those kind-hearted friends who tell you, "Well done."

My dear, dear Hopfrog, I'm pretty sure my name does not belong alongside Laird and Tom, true masters in every way, but thanks for the very kind thought.

All my bEst!

Yer bEastie

hopfrog
04-19-2009, 03:56 AM
[quote=hopfrog;19070]I used to suffer from something akin to your flagellatio cos I wanted to create Literary Art as Lovecraft did -- beautiful and poetic weird fiction -- but I knew that I lacked what it took to be an original artist; but I also knew that nothing would stop me from writing, because writing was the thing that made life worthwhile. There was a kind of torment in realising my inadequacy, and there still is, when I read really breath-taking and original weird fiction by masters such as Thomas Ligotti and Laird Barron and Joe Pulver.

My dear, dear Hopfrog, I'm pretty sure my name does not belong alongside Laird and Tom, true masters in every way, but thanks for the very kind thought.

All my bEst!

Yer bEastie

I think you're one of the best, as does Stan and S. T. But praise and criticism are, for the true and pure artist, mere hot air. We write because we must--that is all. Nothing anyone writes about our efforts should sway us either way. That, for me, was the great crime committed by you and Stanley -- to stop write for YEARS because of S. T.'s review in WEIRD TALES. Stanley has yet (as far as I know) to complete any new original fiction since then. Happily, you have produc'd like a thing possess'd, and you now have enough material for a second collection of original fiction. It's the trickiest thing in the world, to "believe" in one's writing. I think you may be, in some small ways, like me -- wanting to believe the praise, but incapable of swallowing it whole. I think it does us well to respect the achievements of they who, like S. T. and Bob, have worked as professionals in the field; yet we have to remember that they are flaw'd humans who have very personal tastes. That's why it bugs me so violently when someone of your talent stopped writing -- for years -- because you were emotionally slayed by a review. There are always going to be the idiots who condemn our work for no other reason than because of our genre, because my passion is ye Lovecraftian tradition or because your fiction is ultra violent. For me, it is easy to ignore the people who offer only criticism, or to use their criticism to think more deeply about my own approach to the work. But I shall never allow criticism to stop my work. The work is the ONLY thing that matters, to write the vision that haunts our black brains, to produce book after book. Writers are big babies -- well, most of the writers I know are. We do suffer for our art, and we cringe when we call it "art," much as we want to believe in it. But JK's flagellatio is an extremely poignant and beautiful thing, if by suffering our doubts we work all the more arduously to create the books of which we can be proud. But however we feel about our work and its reception -- the WORK is all that matters. Produce! Book after book after book! That is my aim, and nothing will stop me from accomplishing it.

vegetable theories
04-19-2009, 06:29 AM
In the UK we have a TV programme called "Britain's Got Talent" which seems to be founded on the idea that people are either talented or sad freaks. The idea is that there is no middle ground. You either have the X Factor or you are a loser who deserves to be ridiculed and insulted and humiliated on prime-time TV. I know that, as Gene Wilder famously said, The artist's middle name is "rejection", but I think this programme is dangerous because it turns that rejection into entertainment. It will encourage us all to be more timid because the consequences of failure are so terrifying. Even as we're laughing at the freaks and rejects we know that we're freaks ourselves.What would happen if our ambition and desire overpowered our limited talent and we found ourselves at the center of that theatre of derision ?
Sorry, this is turning into a rant.:drunk:
What I'm getting at is that fear of failure is at the root of writer's block and probably every other type of block.
I am profoundly inspired by what you've said, Wilum, that we have to find the courage to face that possible failure. I think you are being far far too humble about your own achievements as a writer.

Evans
04-19-2009, 09:03 AM
*The following is my own extremely unpopular view point regarding opinions as a whole. Consider yourself disclaimed*


Karswell is correct in saying that basically anyone can inflict seemingly mediocre art* on the world but it cuts both ways.

You allso come across some people who are never satisfied with their own work no matter what anyone else would say. (The foreword of T.E.D Klein's Reassuring Tales seems like a good example of this. Despite much critical acclaim, he is very rarely satisfied with his own work.)

I've allways felt art is an innately selfish pursuit. In fact I have a little question to anyone who has made attempts at writing fiction. Would you rather write a story that your pleased with or a story that pleases hundreds of others?

(All though I shouldn't really count I would unashamably place my self in the former category. I would be very pleased if others enjoyed anything I had created but in the end I ought to be my own critic)


*Though it would still require them to track down and harpoon a publisher.

hopfrog
04-19-2009, 11:31 AM
I am profoundly inspired by what you've said, Wilum, that we have to find the courage to face that possible failure. I think you are being far far too humble about your own achievements as a writer.

I have a fear of pride. And I realise that I am too ignorant about that which constitutes good writing to be able to judge my own work. Writing, for me, is compulsion and instinct, rather than "know-how." The writing that I love, that most inspires me, is that which has been called classic, that critics have deem'd "artistic" success. That's the world that inspires my weird fiction.

Evans, it is impossible to write a story that I am pleased with, because my emotions tied up with my work are too chaotic. I may love a story once I've finish'd it, and then two weeks later I'll read it again and groan in misery. The one pure pleasure I get from writing (besides the actual work, the doing of it), is to know that my work has brought joy to my growing readership. That is something I don't need to weigh emotionally or critically. I see the world as a sad sick sphere, and to know that my writing has brought just a wee bit of pleasure to people -- especially to people who READ -- is wonderful, and it is that which keeps me at my writing pad.

Odalisque
04-19-2009, 12:18 PM
I find that I dislike the first post in this thread a great deal.

Personally, I am very suspicious of the word "art". It seems tied to people making exaggerated claims for certain work (and voicing dismissive views on things which fall short of being "art"). I wonder whether we might do better to be sparing in our use of the word -- and certainly to divorce it from value judgments.

I do not know what is meant by 'dream catchers' or 'electric orbs' -- and so have no intention of either praising or condemming these artifacts. Perhaps I am fortunate not to have encountered these things. It is possible (but far from certain) that I'd like them should I encounter the things.

Neither do I believe that worthwhile material is always (or even usually) created as a result of "agony". Perhaps the reverse is true. It is my belief that the act of creation can be joyful (at least sometimes, and perhaps usually so). I have, in my time, experienced a great deal of pain. A dentist, for example, once attempted to remove one of my teeth without the anaesthetic having begun to function. That seemed to me agony. I cannot equate it with anything creative I've experienced. Perhaps this means that I've never produced anything Mr Karswell would consider to be "art".

I note that Mr Karswell's musical taste does not appear to overlap with mine at all. (Although, were I to see his entire record collection, perhaps I would discover otherwise). It occurs to wonder whether this is linked (in some way) with our evidently opposed outlooks.

Evans
04-19-2009, 02:40 PM
I find that I dislike the first post in this thread a great deal.

Personally, I am very suspicious of the word "art". It seems tied to people making exaggerated claims for certain work (and voicing dismissive views on things which fall short of being "art"). I wonder whether we might do better to be sparing in our use of the word -- and certainly to divorce it from value judgments.

I do not know what is meant by 'dream catchers' or 'electric orbs' -- and so have no intention of either praising or condemming these artifacts. Perhaps I am fortunate not to have encountered these things. It is possible (but far from certain) that I'd like them should I encounter the things.

Neither do I believe that worthwhile material is always (or even usually) created as a result of "agony". Perhaps the reverse is true. It is my belief that the act of creation can be joyful (at least sometimes, and perhaps usually so). I have, in my time, experienced a great deal of pain. A dentist, for example, once attempted to remove one of my teeth without the anaesthetic having begun to function. That seemed to me agony. I cannot equate it with anything creative I've experienced. Perhaps this means that I've never produced anything Mr Karswell would consider to be "art".

I note that Mr Karswell's musical taste does not appear to overlap with mine at all. (Although, were I to see his entire record collection, perhaps I would discover otherwise). It occurs to wonder whether this is linked (in some way) with our evidently opposed outlooks.

I think the issuse in question that Karswell has risen is that the purveyor of said items didn't consider them worthwhile himself.

Julian Karswell
04-19-2009, 03:37 PM
I find that I dislike the first post in this thread a great deal.

Personally, I am very suspicious of the word "art". It seems tied to people making exaggerated claims for certain work (and voicing dismissive views on things which fall short of being "art"). I wonder whether we might do better to be sparing in our use of the word -- and certainly to divorce it from value judgments.

I do not know what is meant by 'dream catchers' or 'electric orbs' -- and so have no intention of either praising or condemming these artifacts. Perhaps I am fortunate not to have encountered these things. It is possible (but far from certain) that I'd like them should I encounter the things.

Neither do I believe that worthwhile material is always (or even usually) created as a result of "agony". Perhaps the reverse is true. It is my belief that the act of creation can be joyful (at least sometimes, and perhaps usually so). I have, in my time, experienced a great deal of pain. A dentist, for example, once attempted to remove one of my teeth without the anaesthetic having begun to function. That seemed to me agony. I cannot equate it with anything creative I've experienced. Perhaps this means that I've never produced anything Mr Karswell would consider to be "art".

I note that Mr Karswell's musical taste does not appear to overlap with mine at all. (Although, were I to see his entire record collection, perhaps I would discover otherwise). It occurs to wonder whether this is linked (in some way) with our evidently opposed outlooks.


I apologise if I have offended you; my intention was, at best, to provoke or stimulate. However, I do think you may have misunderstood what I originally said (I hope that doesn't come across as patronising).

I believe that much of the best 'art' created by man has involved considerable personal sacrifice, whether that be through ill-fortune (accident) or intense effort (design). Very few individuals who could legitimately be termed geniuses found that great work tumbled effortlessly out from their minds.

For every seemingly lazy and gifted genius feted by the gods I think it would be quite easy to name one hundred equal talents who either to work very hard or had visionary greatness thrust upon them as a result of tragedy or trauma.

Odalisque
04-20-2009, 06:48 AM
I apologise if I have offended you; my intention was, at best, to provoke or stimulate. However, I do think you may have misunderstood what I originally said (I hope that doesn't come across as patronising).

I believe that much of the best 'art' created by man has involved considerable personal sacrifice, whether that be through ill-fortune (accident) or intense effort (design). Very few individuals who could legitimately be termed geniuses found that great work tumbled effortlessly out from their minds.

For every seemingly lazy and gifted genius feted by the gods I think it would be quite easy to name one hundred equal talents who either to work very hard or had visionary greatness thrust upon them as a result of tragedy or trauma.

Don't worry, I'm not offended.

I wonder whether anyone has ever attempted a statistical analysis of how much great work came easily, and how much via very hard work/tragedy/trauma. There are obviously several problems in the way of such an analysis. In the first place, it would be difficult to draw up a universally agreed list of great works. Perhaps more importantly, tragedy, trauma and hard work are not easily measured. How bad does something have to be to count as tragedy or trauma? (And I submit that very few people's lives are untouched by these, whether or not they attempt any creative work.) How hard is very hard work? And how bad is hard work? Much of what I've written has involved hard slog, but I don't begrudge that. (My own inner compulsions seem to carry more weight.)

As to "genius", I suppose the word originally meant no more than "spirit" (as in "genius loci"). The word came to be applied specifically to such people as Leonardo and Einstein. So far, I have no real problem with the word. But I hear it applied to footballers and snooker players. Without wishing to seem snobbish, these people seem to me to fall into an entirely different category from Leonardo. But, given that the meaning of a word is its use, I cannot argue with its apparent current usage -- which seems to be "an especially skillful person". To me, the shift in meaning renders the word all but useless. Personally, I no longer use it at all except in the original sense of "spirit". I do sometimes refer to a "genius loci".