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#191774 - 10/22/07 01:39 PM Re: Debate About State of "Art-Comics" (Particularly Clowes), But w/o Superhero Nuts
Charles Reece Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 10013
Loc: us of fuckin' a
Gene, the only one who's brought up dictionary definitions here is you. The only one who cares who is or isn't an elitist is you. So, at least, take responsibility for "bogging us down."

Calling someone who only watches HBO shows, TWIN PEAKS and a few other quality programs in the history of tv an elitist is goofy. It might recognize a certain level of quality expected by that person and it might recognize a distinction between that person's viewing habits and the average tv viewer (one would be the level of time spent watching tv), but it's "elitism" only to someone who's entirely too bogged down in tv. The same goofiness can be levelled at a genre enthusiast who can't admit that another genre enthusiast is an enthusiast, just because that other person is more selective in what he or she reads from that genre. A pluralist in this case isn't one who excludes another's enthusiasm based on his own narrow definition. You've a goofy way of thinking about pluralism, as well as elitism.

This thread began by what I believe to be a bunch of hoakum, the distinction between genre and literary/low and high/popular and elitist. These distinctions exist because of politics and should be dealt with since they have ramifications in art. But one isn't bound to them if one chooses not to be. However, acknowledging that these categories exist, and that you wish to continue using them, about the only way you could fit me (or, I suspect, LeGuin) into your categories is to refer to me as a pluralist elitist, who loves things from all genres, all media to which he's been properly exposed and both sides of those politically designated categories, but judges examples within those categories with a demand for a certain level of quality, as defined by a constantly evolving set of criteria (with some subsets being limited to particular media, form or content). However, 'pluralism' fails here to the degree that I prize intelligence across the board (although I love plenty of dumb stuff) and 'elitism' fails because I love so much from the politically defined opposite categories, which any elitist worth his salt would only denigrate.

Now, dismissing me as an elitist, and prizing yourself as a pluralist, when you're the only one here who's saying someone else isn't really a fan of genre works is prima facie stupid. "Stupid" not because of any intrinsic trait, but based on the categories you can't shake. You're the only one who's trying to deny access to others to some priveleged group of enthusiasts, based on narrow prescripts. That, by definition, is elitist and anti-pluralist. The only reason why you or some of your fanboy kin might not think of yourself as elitists is because of political definitions. You can't be an elitist, so it goes, because you're crazy about superheroes or scifi or whatever else has been deemed low (re: popular and not elitist) culture. Where this gets downright stupid and simply illogical (A is not A) is you try to fit me and my kin into the opposite category, despite my loving the same genres, which you and politics assume automatically exclude you from high culture. That's why I say I just don't care for these categories. They have no relevance in describing my own aesthetics. Let the snobbish and no taste dipshits fight about it. I prefer talking about the art and what it means to me.
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#191775 - 10/23/07 10:34 AM Re: Debate About State of "Art-Comics" (Particularly Clowes), But w/o Superhero Nuts
gene phillips Offline
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Registered: 09/30/99
Posts: 5910
Loc: Houston, TX
'Gene, the only one who's brought up dictionary definitions here is you. The only one who cares who is or isn't an elitist is you. So, at least, take responsibility for "bogging us down."'

We weren't talking dictionaries until you questioned my use of the word "elitist." You've seen me use it before; you know how I use it, so there was absolutely no point to be served in bringing up the same old gripes you've had before. If the earlier discussions left you dissatisfied, then we can revisit the quarrel, but don't pretend that it was all my doing.

"Calling someone who only watches HBO shows, TWIN PEAKS and a few other quality programs in the history of tv an elitist is goofy"

Nope, an elitist is not someone who simply watches what he considers to be the best TV. An elitist is one who judges all TV by a unitary set of standards, whether a given work was meant to satsify those standards or not.

Like here, you said:

"As for Lee vs. Nabokov, I'd say (and did say) that in any relevant comparison (e.g., richness of characterization instead of physicality of action sequences), Lee's going to come up the loser."

Who decides that "richness of characterization" is the only relevant comparison? Lee's SPIDER-MAN is predicated on offering physical excitement. PNIN offers something more akin to intellectual stimulation, or tries to. I originally compared the two to make clear that SPIDEY is more successful in its department than PNIN is in its bailiwick, and therefore an inferior piece of "art" is not necessarily superior to a superior piece of "genre work."

Doubtless you will maintain that "character" is still the only "relevant" basis for comparison, but since I'm sure that you can think of some example of "high art" that you don't like-- even taking into account your professed dislike for the terms-- can you or can you not agree with the basic inferior/superior schema expressed above?

I would say that if you cannot, you may be practicing your own brand of "genre politics."

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#191776 - 10/23/07 11:18 AM Re: Debate About State of "Art-Comics" (Particularly Clowes), But w/o Superhero Nuts
Charles Reece Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 10013
Loc: us of fuckin' a
Quote:
"Calling someone who only watches HBO shows, TWIN PEAKS and a few other quality programs in the history of tv an elitist is goofy"

Nope, an elitist is not someone who simply watches what he considers to be the best TV. An elitist is one who judges all TV by a unitary set of standards, whether a given work was meant to satsify those standards or not.
By what multiple sets of standards do you judge elitism in order to not be an elitist by using a unitary set? And if there's multiple sets, then aren't there multiple elitisms? And if there's multiple elitisms, then that means elitism can be pluralistic. QED.

Quote:
"As for Lee vs. Nabokov, I'd say (and did say) that in any relevant comparison (e.g., richness of characterization instead of physicality of action sequences), Lee's going to come up the loser."

Who decides that "richness of characterization" is the only relevant comparison? Lee's SPIDER-MAN is predicated on offering physical excitement. PNIN offers something more akin to intellectual stimulation, or tries to. I originally compared the two to make clear that SPIDEY is more successful in its department than PNIN is in its bailiwick, and therefore an inferior piece of "art" is not necessarily superior to a superior piece of "genre work."
Who said characterization is the only relevant comparison? Not I. My point was that there are many points of relevant comparisons (for example -- i.e., "e.g." -- characterization), but some that are exclusive to Spidey (for example, physicality of action scenes). Don't know about PNIN, but LOLITA has certainly elicited some intense physical reactions. Greater than Spidey's action scenes or movements through the city? That could be debated, I suppose. What doesn't seem to be debatable here is that it's Lee's writing that's the basis for what you're justifiably celebrating about Spidey. It was Ditko's art, man.

Quote:
Doubtless you will maintain that "character" is still the only "relevant" basis for comparison, but since I'm sure that you can think of some example of "high art" that you don't like-- even taking into account your professed dislike for the terms-- can you or can you not agree with the basic inferior/superior schema expressed above?

I would say that if you cannot, you may be practicing your own brand of "genre politics."
You're the most myopic pluralist I've ever encountered.

Quote:
'Gene, the only one who's brought up dictionary definitions here is you. The only one who cares who is or isn't an elitist is you. So, at least, take responsibility for "bogging us down."'

We weren't talking dictionaries until you questioned my use of the word "elitist." You've seen me use it before; you know how I use it, so there was absolutely no point to be served in bringing up the same old gripes you've had before. If the earlier discussions left you dissatisfied, then we can revisit the quarrel, but don't pretend that it was all my doing.
I wasn't "talking dictionaries" at all and would prefer not to. I wasn't arguing about the definition of 'elitism' as expressed in the dictionary, but your application of the term. I don't agree with who you dismissively call elitist in order to avoid dealing with what's said. Let's make a deal, neither of us will use 'elitism' or 'elitist' from here on out. We're people who love genre, but disagree on what makes for the best genre work. Just like LeGuin. We'll just argue about our disagreement rather than coming up with dismissive categories. This way, we don't have to argue about who keeps bringing this elitist shit up.
_________________________
The Gospel, wherein much Truth is written.

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#191777 - 10/23/07 11:31 AM Re: Debate About State of "Art-Comics" (Particularly Clowes), But w/o Superhero Nuts
gene phillips Offline
Member

Registered: 09/30/99
Posts: 5910
Loc: Houston, TX
Stevv,
While rereadiug the first page I realized that it was here that X-height had already mused upon the problems of using "literature" in a portmanteau sense. For your convenience:

'I still hold to Samuel R. Delany's statement

quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"Literature" means all writing that is produced in the acknowledged literary genres, all writing that aspires to be literature, all writing that can conceivably be used to endorse the dominant ideology, either directly or indirectly - that is, until the idea of "literature" comes under any sort of attack. At that point, it completely revises its meaning, pulls in its borders, and becomes "only the best, the very highest quality work that has been produced in these various genres" - which is, of course, a very different thing.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

literary being the later phase of here.'

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#191778 - 10/23/07 11:46 AM Re: Debate About State of "Art-Comics" (Particularly Clowes), But w/o Superhero Nuts
gene phillips Offline
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Registered: 09/30/99
Posts: 5910
Loc: Houston, TX
As I cruise the early pages, I find that I did not initiate discussions on the "hoakum" either genre or elitism.

Dumas' first post mentions the preference of academia for the "genre" of literary fiction over other, less well-respected genres.

Ken asserts an imaginary position for me that Charles later makes clear that he takes seriously:

'When I "defend" Clowes, I do so - as do others - because I really like his work.

It'd be as if I said: "Gene only praises superhero comics because he has a need to identify with the kind of comics rejected by the elite - it boosts his ego to be seen taking this rebellious position." My assumption is otherwise: that you like such comics and find them interesting to talk about.'

Up to that point I had spoken only of Clowes' reception by the "numerically-dominant faction of indy fandom"

I then remarked on Charles' elsewhere-expressed opinions:

"Well, Charles has certainly made the argument that I've only defended superhero comics out of misplaced sentimentality for stuff I grew up with"

Though I do feel Charles provoked any later admonitions about his elitism (a term he apparently resents all to hell) by remarking first that it was possible for persons like myself to hold stupid viewpoints. I certainly agree with that position whenever I see him claim he's not an elitist.

So, Charles, you can blame me for anything I've said, but I'm not the one who initiated this thread's descent into the bowels of genre and elitism.

Onward.

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#191779 - 10/23/07 12:26 PM Re: Debate About State of "Art-Comics" (Particularly Clowes), But w/o Superhero Nuts
gene phillips Offline
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Registered: 09/30/99
Posts: 5910
Loc: Houston, TX
First actual mention of the word "elitist" is from Reece:

"But, according to him, the others are the elitists for preferring what they prefer."

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#191780 - 10/23/07 12:37 PM Re: Debate About State of "Art-Comics" (Particularly Clowes), But w/o Superhero Nuts
gene phillips Offline
Member

Registered: 09/30/99
Posts: 5910
Loc: Houston, TX
Reece from 9-29, on why he doesn't think he's overvaluing the quotidian nature of the more literary SF-writers:

"Thus, I'm not a genre enthusiast because I prefer Borges to Tolkien, or Lem to Asimov. Yet, ironically, you and Dumas think it's because of some need for realism that I or Ken don't mind someone like Clowes' more fantastic elements. That's fucked up, man."

Reece on 10-1, on why Lem is a superior SF writer:

"Lem, to me, is as good as scifi gets. If you liked SOLARIS, then give HIS MASTER'S VOICE a go. It's many things, a critique of bureaucracy, professionalist thinking, the influence of money and politics on scientific thinking, but the most amazing aspect of it for me is his demonstration of the beauty of atheistic reasoning. An incredible book."

Do you not see that all of these thematic elements, however expressed through fantastic apparatus, have more quotidian appeal than Asimov telling a tale about a robot detective?

It's not that there's no quotidian relevance to THE CAVES OF STEEL. There certainly is, or readers couldn't relate to it. But the quotidian side of CAVES is clearly secondary to the evocation of a genre-expectation: solving a complicated mystery, irrespective of what quasi-literary themes the mystery may have.

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#191781 - 10/23/07 01:09 PM Re: Debate About State of "Art-Comics" (Particularly Clowes), But w/o Superhero Nuts
gene phillips Offline
Member

Registered: 09/30/99
Posts: 5910
Loc: Houston, TX
"By what multiple sets of standards do you judge elitism in order to not be an elitist by using a unitary set?"

The same "multiple sets" that, in effect, create the historical (not political) notion of genre in the first place. An an example, see my remarks to Ken, where I argued that the designation "American horror film" evolves out of producers' desire to repeat a specific generic effect for their audiences. The criterion for excellence in a horror film becomes, "Does it scare audiences?" as opposed to earlier unitary pronoucements as to literary worth, which particularly seemed to dog the career of Edgar Allen Poe.

"Who said characterization is the only relevant comparison? Not I."

I know you've written a lotta stuff about how you love genre, but your remarks always seem deprecatory, as with the remark about "crude kids comics." You always sound like you think what I call "straightforward" genre-works ought to be kept in their place, as against the more technically-excellent examples. See also my remark about how I think you may have confused the appeal of quotidian themes in "high-toned" genre with the appeal of genre as such.

"Let's make a deal, neither of us will use 'elitism' or 'elitist' from here on out. We're people who love genre, but disagree on what makes for the best genre work. Just like LeGuin. We'll just argue about our disagreement rather than coming up with dismissive categories. This way, we don't have to argue about who keeps bringing this elitist shit up."

As should be obvious, I went on my quest for "Who Brought Up the Elitist Shit First" before reading this. Fine by me: I think the notion that genre is only a political creation has greater potential anyway.

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#191782 - 10/23/07 10:04 PM Re: Debate About State of "Art-Comics" (Particularly Clowes), But w/o Superhero Nuts
Charles Reece Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 10013
Loc: us of fuckin' a
Quote:
First actual mention of the word "elitist" is from Reece:
Not true, both you and Ken use it on the first page.
_________________________
The Gospel, wherein much Truth is written.

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#191783 - 10/23/07 10:10 PM Re: Debate About State of "Art-Comics" (Particularly Clowes), But w/o Superhero Nuts
Charles Reece Offline
Member

Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 10013
Loc: us of fuckin' a
Quote:
"Lem, to me, is as good as scifi gets. If you liked SOLARIS, then give HIS MASTER'S VOICE a go. It's many things, a critique of bureaucracy, professionalist thinking, the influence of money and politics on scientific thinking, but the most amazing aspect of it for me is his demonstration of the beauty of atheistic reasoning. An incredible book."

Do you not see that all of these thematic elements, however expressed through fantastic apparatus, have more quotidian appeal than Asimov telling a tale about a robot detective?
I don't consider those quotidian. I do consider them to have more real world importance than a story that's merely about a robot detective. An author who's got a great imagination and is able to give you insight into philosophical themes and the like is better than one who only has a great imagination.
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