Kitsch, Artistic Courage, Public Disinterest, and the Writer

Rod Dreher recently had a few fascinating things to say about writing and the social courage of the writer and various ways of dealing with religious themes. After a partial reprint of a book review, he begins by quoting Walker Percy at some length. Here's a snippet:
My own suspicion is that many American writers secretly envy writers like Solzhenitsyn... The total freedom of writers in this country can be distressing. What a burden to bear, that the government not only allows us complete freedom — even freedom for atrocities...! — but, like ninety-five percent of Americans, couldn’t care less what we write.
Then makes some remarks of his own:

Who wants a feel-bad story about how Mary was really a faithless crone pushed around by men? It’s a mystery. I’m not saying that the media ought to ballyhoo religious kitsch. But it sounds for all the world like Toibin’s book is antireligious kitsch....
You don’t have to write pious goop to take up [religious] themes. But who wants to read impious goop?
There are those, of course—the irreligious who are as comfortable with trite blasphemies as some Christians are with trite praises. Plenty of people can enjoy a cliché, as long as it's not an antagonistic cliché. Half the bumper stickers I see around Bellingham are proof of that fact.

That aside, there are all kinds of interesting discussion points in Dreher's piece. For instance, Percy's statement about the utter freedom of the American author and the relative disinterest it occasions him (which emotional setup is probably responsible for the fact that the bookish community holds a tarring and feathering, complete with pitchforks and torches, over minor deals like moms who dare to publicly voice concern about graphic content in teen lit). Likewise, the fact that an attempt to shortcut your way to Art through shock value usually results in kitsch. And the question of dealing with religious themes in a way that doesn't turn to goop of either the pious or the impious sort.



  1. Replies
    1. Do you know what that makes me think of? Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. :P

  2. Brilliant post. Your third paragraph is every bit as quotable as Percy and Dreher! Trite Blasphemies sounds like the name of a garage band.

    1. Thanks! And HAHA. All it needs is a little misspelling, and a scary font in all caps. TRYTE BLASFEMEEZ.


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