Monday, October 18, 2010

We Can be Heroes?

What's "great"? Just had a disagreement with another blogger about a piece of [literature according to me, something else according to him]. There are books that are revelations when one is young, but which seem tedious when we are older. This is not, to me, because we're necessarily wiser, it's more about what we need from literature ... or any art form. I have enjoyed introducing young friends to On the Road, for instance, but were I to reread it now I think I would feel like kicking the narcissistic a***s of the characters. In art, as my vision has become fuzzier, I have lost interest in murky images. What lasts? And even if it doesn't last, can't something be great in its time and place? Is knowing when we are older more accurate or just different from that when we're young?*

*Lewis Carroll addressed some of these questions in You are Old, Father William, of course.

26 comments:

evalinn said...

Interesting questions! I think we´re not necessarily more "right" when we´re older, in some senses we´re just different...

Poet in Residence said...

Yes indeed, we grow old and tired and want to drift to sleep in those brown rooms beneath the sepia prints and slowly ticking clocks of doom. Rupert the Bear who kept us awake once a lifetime ago in dead of night with dreamy magical and primary coloured adventures is sadly consigned to yesteryear and memory and John Banville's 'Book of Evidence' is on the bedside tables.

California Girl said...

Boy isn't it the truth? I feel that way about books and movies,some, not all, of course. It can be so disappointing to go back to a movie or book you loved as a teen, a movie or book that moved you, opened your eyes, and now see it through the older, more jaundiced eye. And yet, there are classics that never go out of style. I can think of those but not the ones that no longer resonate as I'm at work and I'd have to mull it over, which I think I'll do as I drive to my appointment.

Charles Gramlich said...

It's interesting how people feel differently about books. I didn't care much for ON the Road when I first read it. I'm not sure my tastes have changed that much.

ArtSparker said...

Charles- I think On the Road is a tall tale/picaresque tale about monstrous appetites indulged in, it's a tradition in which emotions and actions that are larger than life are not horrific and don't bring the consequences that they would bring in a horror story. In fact, the horror story may be a sort of fairy tale for grownups, instructive as to the consequences of bad behavior. I can see why you might feel there is something missing for that reason (although of course this may have nothing to do with why you disliked the story).

steve said...

Yeah, great topic Susan and post Susan. I do think tastes change with time, age and life experience, however, I read somewhere that we develop certain distinct opersonality traits at a very young age, and certain tastes/sensibilities in our late teens that pretty much stick with us through adulthood. I read On The Road in college, and I think it resonated more with me then because of the romanticism associated with such travels. Now I still have a great deal of respect for it, but perhaps it doesn't speak to me as much now. The same can be said for certain art and music I was into. I still return to those old Cure albums every now and then, and still find that stuff incredibly good, but in many ways can't relate to it nearly as much as when I was a kid.

Eva said...

Funny, I'm just exploring the literature of my youth and try to find out whether it is mere nostalgia if I like it. After more than 40 years, I'm reading Hugh Walpole's Herries Saga again, and I love it, mainly because the translater seems to adore Adalbert Stifter which makes it obviously a lot more romantic than the original. And I found that I come back to old fancies, and I'm almost a little ashamed -- not open enough for new content? I wonder.

Celeste Bergin said...

The photo of the Hero atop the matchbooks fits your query perfectly. I loved striking a match from a box like that when I was a kid. We were allowed to do such things back then because our parents yelled at us so hard ..we had the sense "yelled into us" to never light anything, we'd just strike the match for the powerful sensation.

Reading ArtSpark's comments is often as enjoyable as reading her post. "Poet in Residence" left us a poem right here in the comments.

Harnett-Hargrove said...

Questions that transcend time…
But what may seem to have been a nursery rhyme, is now difficult, and the 'difficult' now seem like simple rhymes! -J

ArtSparker said...

Thanks, everyone - like you, Celeste, I enjoy reading what commenters have to say here very much.

Margaret said...

it's more about what we need from literature ... or any art form

Yes. Just different.
(But I've only been young.)

ger said...

Your hero atop the matchboxes says it all: a hero/heroine has to stand tall in ridiculous and/or dangerous (and - most of the time...) situations - if that is done well, age can´t change a lot I guess...

ArtSparker said...

Margaret - in your case, we may have to leave aside the old soul trope...

Ger- I have mixed feelings about heroes. There are acts of heroism, there are lives lived heroically - but any hero-making can diminish both the hero and the maker, I believe.

Clowncar said...

some books age poorly, some age well (though even as a young adult I found keroac tiresome). I revisited vonnegut a couple years back and found that not only was he better than I remember, the meaning had changed entirely (I'm thinking specifically of Slaughterhouse 5 here).

ArtSparker said...

CC- Interesting about Vonnegut, because he is so much of the sixties.

notmassproduced said...

well that's quite an outfit

ArtSparker said...

nmp- I like his demeanor too, his chest is ready to face the slings and arrows, and his feet, though large, are placed with balletic grace.

May we all be so!

Totalfeckineejit said...

Just for one day?


There's something of the Guy Fawkes or Joan of Arc about the artspark installation wot you has created.I likes it! Kabooom!

ArtSparker said...

TFE- I hope you, for one, are resting comfortably rather than being heroic...

tabs4959 said...

I find I feel this way when listening to music rather than reading. Dylan's back pages always remind me that

"I was so much older then/I'm younger than that now"

and I am!!!

Deb G said...

Well, I thought The Hobbit was tedious when I was younger and loved it when I was older.... All about reading it at the right time. :)

Fresca said...

"Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show."
--first line of _David Copperfield_

That question riveted me when I was nine and read DC for the first time. I read it (the line and the book) every so often and ponder it all over again.

(Otherwise, I can't stomach Dickens.)

Wanted so much to like OTR when I was fifteen... but couldn't get past the first page.

susan christensen said...

Interesting comments on a thoughtful post, Susan. My capacity for uncertainty seems to be growing: the older I get the less I know for sure. I have a certain nostalgia for some of my old favorites, but don't re-read - so many books, so little time!

grrl + dog said...

sometimes knowing when you are old is less than when we were young...

yvette said...

I believe it's more intense on a smaller scale.
but less is more

knuffel

Coffee Messiah said...

I like the photo!

An interesting post. I find it all strange. And like you, some literature from my youth certainly does not read the same now as it did then.

On the other hand, some that made no sense to me then and couldn't get through (i'm on a vonnegut kick right now, couldn't follow back then) is much more interesting now that I am older.

As the old adage goes: to each their own, and certainly that's what makes the World go round, or something.

Cheers!