Tuesday, February 17, 2004

War and Politics

I intended to avoid all discussion of war and politics here, but I'm making an exception today because of this compilation of writers' war commentary. I consider myself a centrist so I'm often turned off by the consistent leftism of the arts. The leftist perspective seems so uniform that many artists appear to create leftist art solely to engage in a circle jerk with other artists. (Pardon the crass metaphor.) To create truly fresh art, today's artists might benefit from pushing a centrist or rightist stance in their art, although a nonpolitical stance would probably be the most tasteful option.

The above compilation, however, turned me on to at least eight writers who are pro-war or agnostic. Alan Sillitoe's contribution is worth reading, but Francis King's response is the closest to mine. The strangest response came from Beryl Bainbridge, who refers to the Holocaust but ignores that it ended when the Allies defeated Nazi Germany.

I have an agnostic perspective on political art. Some artists (see Wilfred Owen) do it well. Others (see Shostakovich) have mixed results and often receive more acclaim for banal yet political works (see Shostakovich's 7th and 8th symphonies) and fewer plaudits for their lively, witty works (see Shostakovich's 1st and 15th symphonies). We can hope that such reverse aesthetic discrimination will eventually diminish over time. Finally, I am certain that many writers and poets who expressed their anti- or pro-war stance produced utterly banal works, but their crime is not so great because those works will soon be forgotten.

(Link thanks to Chuck Tryon.)


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