Wednesday, March 14, 2012

800 Words: The ABC's of the Marriage of Figaro - AAA.

AAA. More Things You Got Wrong

The previous post was just a few of the many things you got wrong....in case anybody hasn’t figured it out yet, this list is deliberately provocative. You have neither an idea as what the world’s greatest art is, nor would you know how to determine it. Moreover, you’re pretty sure no one else does either. You just thought it would be fun to think of your own personal experiences and try to tally them up as a way of saying why The Marriage of Figaro means more to you than any other work of art save La Regle du Jeu. You’re fairly sure that no one else would know how to judge art properly either, you just want to say what works you tire of the least. And looking at this list, it’s clearly quite inadequate to the task. Just in the last two days, you’ve watched Simpsons episodes from both Season 4 and Season 5 which were simply not as good as you remember them (the Cape Feare episode was particularly disappointing next to the work of absolute genius you remember).

But a trip to Barnes and Noble around 5 this afternoon made you that much more considerate of works you missed. Among books, how could you miss My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk - never did you think that a fictional retelling of the 16th century transition of Turkish calligraphers to Western printmaking could be so affecting, or so funny. Because it’s technically a memoir, you left of Amos Oz’s A Tale of Love and Darkness. But how could you leave off the book that perhaps moved you to as much laughter as and more tears than any other you’ve ever read (finished)? And how could you leave off Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man? And you remember your beloved Stefan Zweig (oh how much less of a bore is he than Thomas Mann....) and you try mightily to square the circle and remember a truly comic moment in his books - but you just can’t do it...And for that matter, you wonder if you were too hard on Candide... but there just isn’t room for a misanthrope like Voltaire on a list that makes you want to get up every morning. But then you remember Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, and with all it’s sprawl, is still the equal of any triumph in opera or music theater in the 20th century. It’s a masterpiece: you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll hurl. And even then, you still can’t cover everything great about West Side Story....

Comics/Graphic Novels

And then your mind turns to Graphic Novels. You’re extremely new to the Graphic Novel world. You’ve just met Will Eisner, and you’re slowly making your way through Alan Moore. You think about picking up a Frank Miller, but you worry that it’s simply too violent for your taste. You’ve really tried with Harvey Pekar, and while he has exactly the correct sensibility - he seems to utterly lack talent. From the little you’ve read of American Splendor, you have no idea why anyone would want to read this shit. But you picked up some Robert Crumb, and you’re baffled by the sheer vitality of the drawing. The book of Genesis may need an editor, but after six chapters you’re beginning to wonder if all it needs to get near the top of this list is an illustrator like Crumb.

But the truth is that you’ve barely made a dent in the ‘essential canon’ of graphic novels. You’re certainly impressed enough to read more, but very few things yet seem to be on the very highest level. Eisner is too intensely serious, Alan Moore even moreso - God only knows what you’ll make of Frank Miller. But if there’s a single book you’ve read from the Graphic Novel canon that deserves to make it, surely it’s Maus. You’ve just reread it for the first time in fifteen years, and it’s every bit as absorbing as you remember. You wanted to do a whole post on it, but it turned into the ‘trivialializing the Holocaust’ post a week or two back. There was too much, and too little, to say about Maus except that the dysfunction of Holocaust survivors is surprisingly funny - you should know, you were babysat by two lovely ones for the first ten years of your life every Saturday night while your parents went out. Maus and Maus II are genuine masterpieces - as complimentary to one another as the two Godfather movies.

But when it comes to actual Comic Books, you haven’t even scratched the surface. You’ve never read a Marvel or DC comic in your life, and you probably wouldn’t know how to judge it if you did. It’s not your world. Perhaps one day it will be, but not yet...What you do know is newspaper comics, and you’re absolutely sure about the inclusion of two comics: Peanuts and especially Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin and Hobbes could easily have been listed in the top dozen - it is everything a great work of art should be : formally perfect, alternately funny and moving - sometimes simultaneously so - and about subjects as diverse as the stars in the sky. If Calvin and Hobbes did not contain artistic masterpieces in its output, then art has no meaning.


...no doubt there are still more you got wrong. But you can't keep going back to this....

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