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#191854 - 11/07/07 12:41 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
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Quote:
Originally posted by Charles Reece:
Quote:
Lee is a readerly writer because he never forgot the bottom line: his heroes might have problems but they must always win their fights in the final round, because that's what the audience wants to see.
That's what he and his audience want to see, not "the audience." If I refuse to read Joyce because he doesn't write enough about heroes winning fights, that doesn't make him any more of a what you're calling a writerly writer than a Joyce fan who refuses to read Lee because the latter doesn't supply what's being desired.
"His audience" or "the audience he's seeking," then.

You're splitting some considerable hairs for someone who was making a great (and unjustified) noise about the use of "weasel words" a few pages back.

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#191855 - 11/07/07 01:02 PM Re: Debate About State of "Art-Comics" (Particularly Clowes), But w/o Superhero Nuts
gene phillips Offline
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Loc: Houston, TX
Quote:
Originally posted by Charles Reece:
Barthes uses the word 'myth' when talking about pop culture, too, so that must mean he's in agreement with your view of superheroes. But, if he and Durgnat both use 'myth', do you all agree? I agree with Durgnat's assessment of THIS ISLAND EARTH, so I must agree with you on superheroes, too. You've tried that rhetorically nominalist bullshit before. Anyone who cares to, but can't figure out the fallacies in your post can look up my responses in that 'Name this Avengers Run' thread.
As I've informed you numerous times, the way authors use words is affected by context. Barthes' use of the word "myth" is foolish for the reasons I outlined in the above-mentioned thread, and Durgnat's use is brilliantly logical. Obviously, I'm allying myself to Durgnat's use, though not exclusively his, as I find the definitions of Frye and Cassirer to be informed as well. My stance certainly isn't nominalism if I clearly identify the writers with whom I agree and those with whom I don't. Indeed, you've been far more nominalist than I have, dredging up dreary arguments about "commodity fetishism" and other such dead ideas, which is pretty much what your counter-argument on the "good vs. evil" concept comes down to.

Regardless, I still don't know what aspects of Durgnat are supposed to fall in line with this earlier statement of yours:

"Durgnat's approach is pretty close to my own. The highest level of writing in genre G is comparable or should be comparable to the highest level of writing in H, I and J if one is to say that all are equally or potentially equally meritorious. Saying Fox was as good as one could get writing within the constraints of having to appeal to the dumbest of 5th graders does no favors for the superhero genre."

In that statement you assert that he agreed with this notion of "the highest level of writing." I'm not going to say categorically that he never made any statement that sounded like this-- over the years critics often change their tunes about a lot of things-- but now that I've provided a quote to show how my approach is like unto Durgnat's, the burden of proof for the above statement lies with you. I think that this "highest level" notion reflects the very elitism that Durgnat strove against in the three books I've read by him (FILMS AND FEELINGS, FRANJU, and BUNEL) and in an assortment of articles, including the passage cited here. But if you've other evidence, let's see it.

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#191856 - 11/07/07 01:46 PM Re: Debate About State of "Art-Comics" (Particularly Clowes), But w/o Superhero Nuts
gene phillips Offline
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The original question was for a good vs. evil theme.

Where in this thematic statement--

"Kafka's evil isn't something that can be vanquished by defeating a foe, bringing a politician down, pointing out the error of the mob's way in a speech or sending a man to jail, but something that's intrinsic to cultures of organization."

--is the "good?"

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#191857 - 11/07/07 04:52 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
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"Your example of a great work (THE LAST UNICORN) that gives us a simplistic, black-&-white morality is (1) a kid's story and (2) acknowledged by you to be neither simplistic nor black-&-white. Now, I don't know the book, don't remember the cartoon version that I once saw, so can't give my own take on it, but I suspect if it's a great morality tale, what's likely great about it is what you'd dismiss as writerly, a raised question, pertaining to high art, or ironic in other works. If all the book does is give us average, commonly accepted views or morality, it's not going to be a great moral work of art. "

First, Beagle's book is not aimed at kids. The animated movie probably did have some of that focus, in order to reach a broader audience, but Beagle's book can't be judged from that.

You've misquoted me in claiming that I said the morality in THE LAST UNICORN had to be "black vs. white." I only said that the opposition of "good and evil" had to be the main theme, in order to see whether or not you would concede that a work with such a theme (like HARRY POTTER) could be excellent. Predictably, you cited a high-toned work that does not address that theme.

Your list of things I would supposedly "dismiss" about the work makes no sense to me and probably doesn't really make any sense to you. My use of the terms you list (where genuinely taken from my writings) is identificatory, not condemnatory.

As for your bit about being "a great moral work of art," well, that's as may be if that's how you translated my original question:

"You've praised Lem and Highsmith as sterling examples of genre authors. In your view are there specific works that deal, in un-ironic fashion, with some major conflict between good and evil that could be rated at the top of the heap?"

Personally, I can think of a lot of great works of art which are great more for reasons of aesthetics than morality, but I'm sure you'll find some way to claim that that's a bullshit dichotomy, either because you really believe it or to simplify the argument for your own ends.

"Two, that last sentence in the quotation is most famously represented by Durgnat's work on Hitchcock, whom he thought was overinterpreted by intellectuals, instead of recognizing him as a minor, but interesting thinker in films."

This may be a "difference" in your mind, but since you've shown that you barely grasp Durgnat beyond where you *think* he agrees with you, it doesn't have any bearing on my system. Your first "difference" is overrated but it's at least closer to my system in that, like Durgnat, I'm bored with the knee-jerk Marxist rhetoric that comes with condemning the "bourgeoise."

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#191858 - 11/08/07 10:08 AM Re: Debate About State of "Art-Comics" (Particularly Clowes), But w/o Superhero Nuts
Charles Reece Offline
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We're clearly at the spinning the wheels in the mud phase of our discussions.

Quote:
There are certainly artists who can manage to ask both questions and make them appeal to both sets of readers, as I noted earlier with respect to Shakespeare using both "blood and thunder" for the relatively-educated and subtle philosophical problems for the highly-educated. I also said, in a statement refuting your invocation of the tired "lowest common denominator" bushwah
Do you believe that Shakespeare's remembered and so respected because of his filling in plot points, or because of all the ideas and gift with language that he applied to telling the stories? Even though you refuse to admit it, you're still making a distinction between Shakespeare writing for those who can really appreciate his writing, not those who can't. Those who can fully appreciate him are the same ones who are most likely to be reading things you deem as high art, or writerly fiction. I can't imagine any current reader saying it's easier to read Shakespeare than it is to read Camus.

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I would say that the LeGuins and the Lems are fine for what they are, but they don't represent the SF genre any better than straightforward storytellers like Asimov and Heinlein.
That depends on what you mean by 'represent': if you mean 'closer to the average,' then Asimov is a better representative; if you mean an example of that which scifi is capable, then Lem is a better representative.

Regarding Durgnat and 'myth': I don't have a problem with people using the term and never have. I do have a problem with people using the way you use it. Durgnat isn't one of those people. The only example/counterexample you've given for Durgnat's approach being similar to the one you take is that he used the word 'myth.' That's not evidence, for the reasons I both state here and have already stated. The differences I pointed out haven't been addressed by you so far. Furthermore, one has but to look at the auteur books he's written to get an inkling of where his loyalities lie: Renoir, Franju and Bunuel. His list of greats is hardly what anyone would think of when guessing your list. What I like about him is that he can appreciate things that he doesn't think are (and acknowledges that they aren't) the "highest level of writing," without diminishing, or being dismissive about, those things which are. Most of my favorite contemporary film critics and theorists were greatly influenced by Durgnat, yet none of them are similar in the least bit in tastes or views to what you express and argue with me about on this board. Funny that. In another time and place, you'd be arguing with him about his snobbishness for not putting Robert Wise on the same level as Bunuel.

Quote:
I think that this "highest level" notion reflects the very elitism that Durgnat strove against in the three books I've read by him (FILMS AND FEELINGS, FRANJU, and BUNEL) and in an assortment of articles, including the passage cited here. But if you've other evidence, let's see it.
Okay, from the very same interview you quoted from earlier:
Quote:
Are you crusading to deconstruct cultism in general?

Iím not crusading. But a certain kind of cultism is a vulgar aesthetics. It derives from assumptions about art learned in high school and carried over through college. It tries to treat mass culture as if it were elite culture. But in many ways it isnít. In fact, elite culture isnít either, though thatís another story. Speaking schematically, the Hollywood first-line corresponds to literatureís third-line. Mind you, adjustments need making. Iíd rate Billy Wilder above F. Scott Fitzgerald and Raymond Chandler Ė thereís two wildly overpraised authors for you. When I say ĎWilderí, I mean Wilderís best, Ace in the Hole [aka The Big Carnival, 1951], Double Indemnity [1944], those films ...

Yes, but when Wood discusses Psycho [1960], he makes a comparison between Hitchcock and Shakespeare.

Heís quite wrong. Mind you, thereís a Shakespeare cult as well ...

Itís like the corny old adage: one manís meat is another manís poison. Wood chooses to make those analogies that you say shouldnít be made with these directors. Where you can compare Hitchcock to Daphne du Maurier, Wood can compare him to Shakespeare.

Yes, I think this is why my position is mysterious, because Iím not saying that these people are insignificant. Iím saying theyíre significant at a certain level. To me thereís a divide between Renoir and Hitchcock.
And:
Quote:
Are there any directors whose total output you find consistently interesting?

Yes. Dreyer, BuŮuel, Renoir ... itís a reasonably long list. But auteurs are like authors. There are very few authors whose work is absolutely consistent. All the same, thereís a level of failure thatís far higher than, say, Hawksí success.
Whatever would he think about arguing Stan Lee versus Vladimir Nabokov? I think that's enough about how close you are to Durgnat.

The good in Kafka: Let's say K stands for 'knowing.' In seeing the reality, one is given the possibility of resistance, internally if not always externally. That is a definite good. What would be illusory, a false good, and therefore the opposite of good, would be the vanguishing of the foe (the bureaucracy) at the end.

The LAST UNICORN and whatever else:

1. I thought it was a kid's book, aimed at kids, but maybe not. It's typically in the kids section isn't it?

2. If it's a great work that deals with good and evil, but it's a complex take on the subject (no "this guy is the bad guy, defeat him and everything's good"), then it isn't an example that counters any view I've expressed here.

3. Undoubtedly, morality isn't the end-all-be-all of aesthetics. However, you were asking about a great story dealing with morality as one of its main themes, so I focused on that. I can think of plenty great works of art which don't focus on morality, but that wasn't what you were asking about. You've quoted your question, now read it.
_________________________
The Gospel, wherein much Truth is written.

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#191859 - 11/08/07 12:53 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
" I agree with Durgnat's assessment of THIS ISLAND EARTH, so I must agree with you on superheroes, too."

It's quite significant that you disagree. You think it's OK for Durgnat to find deeper meanings in THIS ISLAND EARTH (he uses the phrase "depth psychology" in relation to it), even given that he pronounces the film aimed at adolescents, but if I do the same for what you consider mere "crude kids comics," that's just me trying to inflate the importance of superheroes.

Not having read the newest postings, I don't know if you've cited more common ground between you and Durgnat. However, to turn the ad hominem back at you, I suggest that you're comfortable with Proposition D (for Durgnat) and not with Proposition P (for Phillips) because you don't have a dog in the fight over Proposition D, as you do with P.

By what I've seen in your posts, you're not as avid a reader of the science fiction genre as of the comics-medium. Thus, being on the outside of any tempests in the Teapot Dome of Science Fiction, you probably wouldn't care if some SF-writer took the opposing side from Durgnat, not just on THIS ISLAND EARTH but on 1950s films generally. Said writer, desiring that his preferred genre should become recognized as genuine literature, might hypothetically consign all 1950s SF-films to the dumpster, just because they make prose-SF look bad by association. Said writer would also be predictably impatient with an analysis like Durgnat's, since claiming that there was hidden complexity in a 50s SF-film would validating them, rather than presenting them as a uniformly-negative image.

I submit that this is pretty much the reason you have a problem with Proposition P, even where it covers roughly some of the same sociopolitical symbolism seen in THIS ISLAND EARTH (re: my analysis of the FANTASTIC FOUR moon-story on the "trademarked" thread). You have an insiders' vision of the comics-medium gaining respectability and any attempt to validate superheroes beyond the level of "dumb fun" threatens that vision.

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#191860 - 11/08/07 01:08 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
I skipped the rest for now, since I mainly wanted to see how you defined "good" in THE CASTLE:

'The good in Kafka: Let's say K stands for 'knowing.' In seeing the reality, one is given the possibility of resistance, internally if not always externally. That is a definite good. What would be illusory, a false good, and therefore the opposite of good, would be the vanguishing of the foe (the bureaucracy) at the end.'

But this is hardly any sort of "versus" conflict, as seen in my statement of the theme. Kafka's characters are not, to borrow from Milton, "sufficient to stand" and they aren't even "free to fall" without the fall seeming preordained by Kafka's hostile "God" (who is in a sense Kafka the Writer, naturally).

It's possible for any number of stories to have characters who do possess positive power of action and whose triumph is muted or ambivalent (Beagle's Unicorn, Tolkien's Frodo). It's also possible for such protagonists to make a good showing and fail thanks to the heavy hand of fate, as is the situation with Sophocles' Oedipus. But that lack of power, of being sufficient to stand, is one reason I can't see any Kafka work as a serious meditation on the theme of good vs. evil. At best it might be deemed a burlesque of the theme, but no more.

However, if you have a relevant "good-defining" quote from THE CASTLE itself, rather than just your own interpretation, I'm prepared to consider revising my stance.

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#191861 - 11/08/07 01:37 PM Re: Debate About State of "Art-Comics" (Particularly Clowes), But w/o Superhero Nuts
Charles Reece Offline
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Loc: us of fuckin' a
You seem to want me to see the good in his works within your own limited definition. I oppose your view on it, so it ain't gonna happen. It's not possible to have a great work of moral art with the simplistic good vs. evil you're requesting of me (but evidently not applying to your examples, either). So I can't give you much more than that.

Quote:
By what I've seen in your posts, you're not as avid a reader of the science fiction genre as of the comics-medium. Thus, being on the outside of any tempests in the Teapot Dome of Science Fiction, you probably wouldn't care if some SF-writer took the opposing side from Durgnat, not just on THIS ISLAND EARTH but on 1950s films generally. Said writer, desiring that his preferred genre should become recognized as genuine literature, might hypothetically consign all 1950s SF-films to the dumpster, just because they make prose-SF look bad by association. Said writer would also be predictably impatient with an analysis like Durgnat's, since claiming that there was hidden complexity in a 50s SF-film would validating them, rather than presenting them as a uniformly-negative image.
No, I wouldn't have a problem liking such a critic, nor would I consider him a snob for choosing to not spend his time digging for gold in largely barren hills, if that's what you mean.

Quote:
You think it's OK for Durgnat to find deeper meanings in THIS ISLAND EARTH (he uses the phrase "depth psychology" in relation to it), even given that he pronounces the film aimed at adolescents, but if I do the same for what you consider mere "crude kids comics," that's just me trying to inflate the importance of superheroes.

Not having read the newest postings, I don't know if you've cited more common ground between you and Durgnat. However, to turn the ad hominem back at you, I suggest that you're comfortable with Proposition D (for Durgnat) and not with Proposition P (for Phillips) because you don't have a dog in the fight over Proposition D, as you do with P.

[...]

I submit that this is pretty much the reason you have a problem with Proposition P, even where it covers roughly some of the same sociopolitical symbolism seen in THIS ISLAND EARTH (re: my analysis of the FANTASTIC FOUR moon-story on the "trademarked" thread).
I didn't make an ad hominem, but you do and then say it's turning it back on me. Anyway, your ad hominem is bullshit, as demonstrated by the example you give: I actually complimented your FF analysis in that thread. And the only problems I have with you is what you've argued on this board over the years and the way you often argue. I don't have as much of a problem with Durgnat, because I like his approach and what he has to say about stuff I'm interested in.
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#191862 - 11/08/07 04:54 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
Just to reiterate my quote from 10-31:

"Worthy though Kafka is, his work has little to do with "readerly fiction" or the theme of good vs. evil as it's generally understood."

You've been saying "accepted" in place of "understood" a couple of times. I thought that sounded odd.

"nothing but bourgeois platitudes"

Which, as we all know, are so much worse than Marxist platitudes.

"Wouldn't average readers be satisfied by average factors?"

Let's ask Durgnat. In the same section from which I quoted, still about TIE:

"Our suggestion is that academic criticism is condemned to misunderstand the film, to dismiss it as routine trash... 'High culture' is preoccupied... with the quesiton: 'Does it work on my level?' But such criteria are irrelevant to this as to most movies. The question must be, rather, 'Does it work on its level?' (for people who freely respond to simpler textures.)"

Inasmuch as Durgnat doesn't explain his "highest common factor/LCD" remark in detail, I would extrapolate from the above that he sees even in the "simpler textures" of straightforward storytelling there can be a kind of "poetry" which "high culture" in its more elitist POV does not have the wherewithal to judge. Though HCFs and LCDs have complementary functions, given that multiplication and division are mirror-images of one another, "factors" suggests the first operation while "denominator" suggests the second. Thus, the 'LCD' view of pop culture is wrong because it sees all pop culture as reducing the potential of literature down to base elements. The "HCF" view is right because it allows for a multiplicative view of even "crude" poetry for the masses-- though I'd prefer my word, "amplificatory," pace Jung.

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#191863 - 11/09/07 02:29 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:
"Wouldn't average readers be satisfied by average factors?"

Let's ask Durgnat. In the same section from which I quoted, still about TIE:

"Our suggestion is that academic criticism is condemned to misunderstand the film, to dismiss it as routine trash... 'High culture' is preoccupied... with the quesiton: 'Does it work on my level?' But such criteria are irrelevant to this as to most movies. The question must be, rather, 'Does it work on its level?' (for people who freely respond to simpler textures.)"
So, Durgnat's answer is "yes." I don't agree with everything he says, nor do you, but we both agree he's a great critic. As he himself readily admits, he's not exactly the most systemic critic in the world. Maybe our agreement on him is an indication that we have some overlap in what we like or think about particular things (as I've often stated before, only to have you disagree with me). Just to be a bit clearer on what I like about Durgnat is that he's a contrarian by nature. He tends to like films which confound his and others' categories. Even if I don't always agree with him, those are the types of films I enjoy most, as well. It's what I love about particular Japanese directors (Masumura, Suzuki, Imamura, etc.). His criticism tends towards the same effect.

My opinion of your theoretical approach to pop culture hasn't changed, Gene. You're just the flip-side of the snobs, redefining the popular in terms of what make it acceptable to your own limited view. For a snob, he can safely put it in a box and not deal with anything important it might have to say on it's own terms. Whereas you no longer have to deal with any qualitative distinctions (hardly a coincedence you're always bringing up Frye). I wonder if you ever encounter a film or comic or book that makes you reconfigure what you think of other works. You don't seem to be that kind of person based on your posts. Rather, you've come up with a system of sorts that simply defends what you've always liked.

Anyway, it's not difficult to find a much better work than TIE that deals with the same important issues in a much more insightful manner, even if one can recognize good things about the film. Whether it's a myth or not is unimportant. Not everything has to be equally great on any level whatsoever to be worth seeing if one chooses. It's enough to say that something like TIE (at that time, particularly) had some intriguing themes within a form that's not quite like anything else. It's not really a good film, though. It's still worth watching, just like I'm glad I saw that scifi film to which I always get the title wrong, but mentioned a month ago (calling it NOT OF THIS WORLD). It says as much about culture as the much better INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, but if I had to choose, I'd say pick the latter for what it says and the way it says it. Now if one wants to argue over the relative merits of INVASION versus SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS -- the former a "genre" film ostensibly being a critique of communism and the latter a "non-genre" critique of capitalism, but both ultimately being about control of the individual will -- that's a debate really worth having.
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