by JL Wall
Rod Dreher again sets my mind off in this direction. Today, however, it has me thinking that I should tack a note onto my discussion from the other day: while the artist/craftsman ought to have concerns other than simply the beauty of the piece he is creating (that is, whether it ought to be created), a work that sacrifices its beauty for the sake of theory/theology/didactic/philosophy/politics can’t rightly be called art — art is both beautiful and true.
I’ve had conversations that touch on this with a friend who was, in fact, the very first reader of Walker Percy I ever met and who remains fascinated and influenced by his work. The question that’s been raised several times (and left unanswered) is whether it was good or bad that (in his take) as Percy’s career progressed his views on mankind and the (post)modern world were articulated more and more clearly — but at the expense of the prose and the quality of the works as novels. Anyone who has read The Thanatos Syndrom should be able to agree that its primary purpose is not to serve as art per se. (Indeed, if you arm yourself with a copy of Love in the Ruins and the fourth chapter of Lawler’s Postmodernism Rightly Understood, the only two aesthetic reasons to read TS are the “Confession” toward the middle and the fact that Tom More may very well never have changed out of the dirty seersucker he’s first seen wearing by the of the novel.)
Shorter me: the artist must take things other than beauty into consideration. But a “good” or “proper” or “true” work without beauty is not art.