Dynamist Blog


In today's "Diary" entry, David Frum has kind and, more important, interesting comments on TSOS. He's worth reading, even if you're sick of hearing about my book.

On his first point, I would say that he overestimates how worried I am by the potential for biological alterations in pursuit of personal beauty. The potential is creepy, but when you think through the way people actually behave, it becomes far less so. If such alterations are effective and low-cost (in all senses of "cost") as, for instance, hair dye is today, I'm not terribly concerned. Nor do I think such alterations will become the norm unless their cost--in money, time, pain, and risk--becomes relatively low. And, of course, they have to make people look better, or at least look more like they want to look. Bad plastic surgery that's cheap and painless is still bad. (Speaking of which, I just discovered a site called Awful Plastic Surgery, which, despite its name, includes the good as well as the bad and ugly.)

On David's second point, I am indeed far less interested in "high art" than I am in the look and feel of everyday life. Maybe it was all that Renaissance drama I studied in school, but I tend to believe that commercial art can be just as great--and certainly as significant to people's lives--as officially designated ART. That said, I was interested in the observation that a caller made to a radio show I was on in New York. He was an artist, and after hearing my definition of "aesthetics" as pre-rational, non-cognitive sensory communication, he suggested that perhaps we're seeing an aesthetic flowering in everyday life because the art establishment has drained "art" of aesthetics. Good or bad, the art that wins plaudits today is all about narrative and cognition, with any viseral, emotional impact omitted.

As someone who loves abstraction, I'm not down on "modern art." My house is full of it, and Steve and I had a wonderful time this weekend visiting the spectacular new Nasher Sculpture Center. But "conceptual art" generally strikes me as stupid--too unsophisticated in its ideas to be truly conceptual, too preachy to be art. (I'm sure there are exceptions.) Because it relies on cognition, rather than visceral responses, that sort of art is outside my concerns in TSOS. So, for the most part, is the much more important narrative art of our day, a.k.a. TV and the movies.

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