a few more thoughts following Friday's ruminations and relevant to the Fate of artists:
via Eric in comments friday: John Ziegler's commentary on the suicide of David Foster Wallace:
I strongly believe that a large ingredient of the toxic mix that ended up forming Wallace’s self-inflicted poison was the pressure he felt of living up to the hype surrounding his writing and the guilt he must have felt for not really having the true talent to back up his formidable reputation.The notion that a (hypothetical) writer would take his own life to secure a place in some imaginary literary pantheon is one that could only be entertained by a dunderhead. In fact it is more reasonable to assume that a writer might have done it following the growing realization that there in fact IS NO SUCH pantheon, or literary afterlife, that it was just an imaginary construct he or she believed in during the naive youth of their artistic joy, and the world is in fact largely made up of dunderheads.
While I have absolutely no evidence to back up this assertion, I also think it is quite possible that he knew that killing himself in his “prime” and before he had been totally exposed as being a mere mortal in the literary realm would cement his status as a “genius” forever. After all, don’t tortured artists often kill themselves? Heck, based on the glowing and reverential reporting on his suicide, in some circles ending his on life may actually be seen as a badge of honor.
There's a line in Charles Rosen's The Classical Style in which he reflects that there was time when the world appeared to be in accord in the measuring of artistic genius:
"As for Beethoven, in spite of difficulties in winning acceptance for his larger works, by 1815 even most of those musicians who did not like his music would have admitted that he was the greatest living composer: some of the admiration he won may have been unwilling, but it was uncontested (except of course, by the lunatic fringe that is the normal burden of the taste and criticism of any age." (bolding mine)I'm reminded of the scene in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen concerning the bet with the Sultan of Turkey: he, the Baron, will present the Sultan with a bottle of tokay from the Austrian Empress's own cellar that surpasses the Sultan's best, OR, he loses his head. If he succeeds, he gets to take as much from the Sultan's vault of jewellery and gold as his servant can carry. There are assorted slips between the cup and the lip, but by and by the Sultan pours a glass of the tokay. He nods in agreement and the Baron's strongman proceeds to empty the vault of its riches, carrying it all in one enormous pile. The Sultan is unable to do anything about it because the Tokay is as good as Munchausen claimed.
No argument. No room for opinion or splitting of hairs.
Compared to this world and time of ours, when every dunderhead claims entitlement to his opinion, how deliciously, gloriously daft.