Art is Not “Good” or “Bad”

I was going to write at length about Wallace Shawn’s Essays, which I recently read. Unfortunately, I’ve now forgotten what I was going to write about. It is an excellent book and well worth a read. You can check out one of his essays (not in the book) over at Huffington Post: “Why I Call Myself a Socialist: Is the World Really a Stage?”

Here is a quote from his essay “Reading Plays”:

More and more, I’ve come to think that to call plays or stories or poems “good” or “bad” is often not very illuminating, whereas it can at times be extremely helpful to notice that “right now, when I read these particular poems, I fee well, I fee happy, I feel that I am getting something that I have needed.” It’s not that those poems are “the best” poems or that they’re “better” than certain others, but that for you, now, they are important and right. Animals in the forest require certain nutrients, and they learn how to find them. They don’t all need the same things, and they don’t need the same things at every stage in their lives. The nuts that a particular badger finds of very little value may turn out to be crucial for a particular squirrel. As writers, we can’t predict who might come along who might find our offerings valuable. But because we’ve all been readers, we know what the experience is like, and we hope that what certain writers have given to us, we will give to someone.

The only thing I disagree with is that it is never illuminating to say that a piece of art is “good” or “bad.”

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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