erin judge writes this

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I'm Erin Judge. I'm a comedian and a writer. I live in Los Angeles. Let's hug.

January 4, 2009

so what is art for?

2009. It's a new year. And...here we go:

I finished Infinite Jest, and after reading it I agree with the first half of the title. I picked up the book (with both hands, exerting considerable force to heft its 1079 pages) in March, put it down (ahhhhhhh!) in late March, then picked it up again after David Foster Wallace's suicide in September.

It was...good!

I'm not the only one who thinks so.

But there are so many issues. And several different kinds of issues, which is why it's still bugging me. There are plot-related issues that arise when one finishes the book, such as:

* Wait. Is that IT???
* What the fuck just happened?
* Well then what the fuck happened in the middle?
* Wait, but this part and this part and that part were real, right? RIGHT!?
* Well how does he know him if he never met him?
* What the hell happened to that one guy then?

And so on.

And then there are philosophical issues, like:

* If everything was really that bad, would everything really be THAT bad?
* Is it just me, or does anybody else who's read this think it's not okay to be that overtly fucking racist?
* Are women really just moms and hot girls, especially to post-reductionist reductionist pomo white dudes?
* Obsession: is it all addiction, or can some of it be real achievement?
* Can we find redemption in life? Can we find it in the legacy of our art?

And of course those last two lead into all the art-philosophical issues, including:

* When we create, is it a project of taking down or building up?
* Do we have a human obligation to put some hope into our creations?
* Is the project of describing the brutal, the painful, or the tragically banal ever complete, yielding that energy to other pursuits?
* Should art make us suffer? The consumers? The creators?
* Do artists need to suffer for their art?

I feel like I could go on forever listing all the issues raised by the act of creating Infinite Jest and then killing oneself. Of course, as I mentioned in my earlier entry on DFW's suicide, this would conflate the artist's work with his psychological problems, which is a perilous leap of causality (for either) at best. But when we have great big brains full of great expanses of understanding and comprehension and empathy and possibility, is it inherently deep to use them to plunge the depths of complex dysfunction? Are we all just chasing Tolstoy, being delightfully distinctive by the personal ways in which we're fucked up? And didn't Wallace seem to think that everybody who was fucked up had more in passé-ass common with other fuckedupwads than they might think, and wasn't that at least some passing part of his whole thesis?

Depth conflated with pain, art conflated with suffering, geniuses who espouse the value of banal aphorisms who still ultimately meet demise through a plague of thought. These are the stakes. Ideas have consequences. As development economists will surely tell you, a misconceived theory can kill, and that obviously applies in other disciplines, from abstract-ass art to concrete-and-hilarious-roadrunner-ass physics.

So it boils down to this: I'm an artist. And I pretty much wanna be deep, but I pretty much don't wanna die. Can you dig?

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