Friday, October 31, 2008

Politics, Fame and the Writer

Stuart Evers attends an audience with Toni Morrison and ends up reflecting ruefully on the dangers of fame (which he feels Morrison escapes) for writers and their writing.

Meanwhile, in the process of asking prominent Americans about the cultural legacy of the Bush administration (which you may think a very strange phrase), The Guardian elicits some interesting comments from writers, some of them on the nature of fiction and the process of writing:

Paul Auster: Art isn't journalism. Some of the greatest historical novels were written long after the events discussed in the book. You think of War and Peace, written in 1870 about things that happened in 1812. I think there's this confusion in the minds of the public that artists are supposed to respond immediately to things that are going on. We've been living through a new era. Everyone knows the world has changed, but exactly where the story is taking us is unclear right now and until it plays out further I don't know if anyone has a clear vision of what's happening.

Joyce Carol Oates: Most artists live through a sequence of administrations, and their art evolves in ways too individual to be related to larger, generic forces.

Gore Vidal: We have a president who cannot read. He's dyslexic, as was his father before him. It must have an effect. I watch a good deal of television because of the elections. The professional television people, all of them graduates of our finest universities, can't use proper English. We are losing the language, I suppose... Art is always needed in a country that doesn't much like it. Performance is all anybody cares about.

Edward Albee: I have found over the past eight years that commerce has taken over the arts in the United States... The only art that is allowed any great exposure is commercial art that is not going to rock the boat.

Lionel Shriver: ...here's the really bad news: Obama could be terrible for the arts. Why, when there's barely an artist in the States who doesn't support him? Art thrives on resistance. There's nothing more arid, more enervating, more stultifying, or more utterly uninspiring than getting your way.
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