Monday, February 11, 2008

Apollonians and Dyonesians, the Raw and the Cooked, Normies and Crazies: A bi-polar Manifesto!

I added Un arbre dans la ville to my links. Food for thought. Is there in the literary blogosphere, as in ancient Greek drama (qua Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy) an Apollonian and Dionysian split?

If so, Stephen Crowe's blog is admirably, studiously, even perhaps... in an Apollonian sort of way, militantly for the former. What brought this to mind was the good news that Steven Mitchelmore of This Space, is out of the (that article marks me as a U-Es-A-un, don't it? ) hospital, and recovering from his unfortunate accident. I'm not sure the Apollonians with us would get the connection, though I suspect those of us with brains that habitually, often to our chagrin, particularly late at night... seek out paths less traveled, will. Steven is very much of the Apollonian persuasion, though less self-consciously, perhaps, and less dedicated to a mission to promote that side of his genetic inheritance than Stephen.

I admire and respect these wonderfully self-controlled sorts... who I invariably hear as I read them, speaking through stiff upper class London lips. But am amazed and dismayed at how readily they dismiss those of us who have been dealt a rather larger part of our common bi-polar heritage than they, the privileged majority, would admit to owning up to.

Un Arbre presents its mission as " a forum for the rational discussion of emotion in art and art criticism, with an emphasis on pursuing and analysing great works of art in popular media."

... adding to that..

"Yes, that means comics too. Not graphic novels, though. They're for pre-teens."

You see what I mean?

That intentionally generous (or should I say, self conscious) offer to include the comic... qualified, of course, by exclusion of a genre, inherently irrational, one that challenges operational notions of the "rational."

Not to mention... which of course I will mention.. the problematic business of founding aesthetics on emotion, and championing a criticism that eschews affective styles--pretending to a stance above and beyond--not by virtue of more finely tuned and sharply honed intellectual analysis--but by offering opinions in a calmer demeanor, and disparaging those which presume to express ideas about, ahem...subjects that are expected to provoke emotional response, in a manner and style that does the same.

In a point counter point exchange on James Wood, Steven takes to task The Rake, of The Black Garterbelt and Ed Champion, of the late and lamented Return of the Reluctant, in their challenges to Wood.

He writes:
Black Garterbelt: ‘His continued struggle against the hysterical seems like the despairing stage whispers of a quaking moralist.’ Ed Champion on Return of the Reluctant: ‘James Wood is the most feared man in American letters? Get real. He’s a mere nitpicking titmouse. To be afraid of Wood is like having minor chest pains while passing the Grey Poupon from one Rolls Royce to another.’

Are we talking about the same man? I haven’t even included the congratulatory comments that hang off these posts like dribble, accusing Wood of everything from idiocy to misogyny. Wood is of course not without his detractors in print (Reese Kwon detailed some of these in her essay on Wood for Small Spiral Notebook); nor is he without his followers online, including Kwon as well as Mark Sarvas at The Elegant Variation. But the condemnation of Wood’s work to be found online is not merely negative, but derisive, veering towards libellous.

Click on that link Black Garterbelt. Tell me what I'm missing here. He offers, point by point, textual arguments--rational textual arguments. His sin, it would seem... is about style.

The Rake follows in the tradition of Nietzsche and Blake, which annoys Stephen. He, projecting unreflectively, accuses The Rake of irrationality, blind to the astute arguments offered, because, evidently, they are offered with a jacked up level of humor and playful wit that he finds offensive.

Okay... I'm not only metaphorically given to the bi-polar tendency to excess, to the Blakian mistrust, if not Blake's contempt, for the weighed and measured consideration, no... that's the brain I've been blessed and/or cursed with. I like to think of it as more blessed than cursed, and by acknowledging and appreciating the Mitchelmores and Stehpen Crowes, even the curse is moderated... and I am moved to a balance my nature would have denied me.

Would that the Apollonians among us might recognize their own imbalance... and listen more closely to the reason that lurks not far behind what we Dionysian crazies write.

Raw and the cooked.

Sushi. Steak Tartar. A tomato, warm from the summer sun plucked from the vine…

"Cooked" has it’s advantages… those grapes, touched by the first frost… kiss your lips 5 years later. But that’s not "cooked" either… what bubbles to the surface, the cultured inebriation, Li Po tossing poems on the water from Rimbaud’s drunken boat… … I want criticism and reviews that don’t sound like someone trying to talk when they’re choking in a fucking necktie… but as well and deeply read as … Harold Bloom?

No matter how you try to escape it... it's all parody in the end...

So, whatamIgonna do? After a hard day... sucking in my gut holding passions in check doing a quick re-read of The Consolations of Philosophy... ohmygod what a relief to click d'Rake and know there are still a few intelligent people out there who don't demand you wear a neck tie as the price of listening to what you have to say.