December 14, 2013

"And for those of you who've been emailing me asking me why I didn't do more with the Screwtape Letters, more like Gatsby..."

"... my answer to that is that the lack of interest in the question asked in this post shows why that project doesn't fly. The Gatsby project flew. It turned on minds that accepted the turn-on and took off."

The last line of my comment explaining why I have yet to fulfill what may seem to be a promise to complete an assignment I really only gave myself.

And this post gets not only a Gatsby project tag, but also a written strangely early in the morning tag.

It's okay if you don't volunteer to sit for my outside-of-law-school exams. I have plenty of exams written by nonvolunteers that I am duty-bound to read. This post is about a duty I felt I had to write the answer to my own exam, which I only gave because I wanted to write that answer. But if the question inspired no one else, then I tend to think that my answer would only have seemed weird or annoying or — the worst — unreadable.

Or is that the worst? The devil nags me to ask. The devil says: Wouldn't it be a fascinating new project to write a blog called "Unreadable Things"?


Oso Negro said...

Unreadable things. I confess to the blog that I carried a copy of The Brothers Karamazov in my travel bag for five years before finally finishing while trapped in Kiev one summer, pre-internet, with no other English language materials to read. And I don't want to talk about James Joyce' Ulysses at all.

David said...

Blog called unreadable things?

Many have beaten you to it, except maybe with the name.

David said...

I'm with Oso. Just blog Ulysses.

Ann Althouse said...

The URL was already taken. So was Fortunately, was there for the taking.

Ann Althouse said...

See? No one cares about the exam!

FleetUSA said...

Talking about missing things: I miss your review of countries. I don't think that project was completed.

Anonymous said...

"I’ll be the Devil smoking two cigarettes.”

Anonymous said...

"He went out of the room calling 'Devil!' and returned in a few minutes accompanied by an embarrassed, slightly worn young man, with shell-rimmed glasses and scanty blond hair."

Ann Althouse said...

"Talking about missing things: I miss your review of countries. I don't think that project was completed."

Ha ha. You are the first person to mention it. That was in my file marked "Things Nobody Noticed."

It took some attention to doggedly do that project, day after day, and it seemed like something I was doing it for the sake of completion, so I embraced the incompletion.

I like the phrase "doggedly do."

Anonymous said...

Re: "so I embraced the incompletion"

I Love this Line. I Will Use This Line in My Religion.

The End is Open-Ended.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Screwtape wouldn't do well in the 'single sentence' format, IMO. Context is really important if you want to appreciate the demonic inversion aspects of the book.

I love Lewis, and he's very quotable, but in paragraphs, not sentences.

Also, you DID the Gatsby project. I don't think it would be as interesting to repeat it with another book.

I could see the fun in taking a line at random out of SOME great book, and challenging reader to come up with author and title WITHOUT USING GOOGLE.

But I'm not sure that game would fit with your blog overall...

Saint Croix said...

You know why I skipped over that blog comment? It had "assignment" and "blog exam" in it.

Run away! I didn't even get to the next sentence.

I'll take a crack at it.

Althouse says, "Sincerity is for hacks." And she uses Picasso as an example as an artist who is insincere. I don't think she's talking about his personal life (although maybe she is). Maybe Picasso is a womanizer, and lies to women. (Camille Paglia argues that great artists are often selfish assholes. Maybe the two go hand in hand!).

But Althouse seems to be saying that Picasso is insincere as an artist. I can only think this to mean that Picasso is not trying to capture reality in his art. His art is not "sincere" in the way that is trying to replicate what is in the world. That's an old debate in art, whether art should represent the world, or whether it should do other things.

But (If this is Althouse's argument) it greatly misconstrues what Lewis is saying. He's not using "sincere" to argue that art must be reality-based. After all, The Screwtape Letters is itself trying to get us to see the unseen, to see beyond physical reality. Just like Picasso is doing!

What Lewis is arguing is that art should be deeply felt, true to the artist who makes it. In that sense, he would applaud what Picasso is doing. I don't know much about Picasso's life or attitudes, but looking at his art I would have to say that's a guy who is following his own course. He is doing what he wants to do, with great passion.

Sincerity can be for hacks. I knew a guy in film school who had a passion for B movie monsters. Vampires, werewolves, all that stuff. Loved them. Every movie he made was about that stuff. So we could say he's a "hack," because he's following his passion, and his passion is for B movie stuff.

Sincerity doesn't mean your art will be good. You still need talent and intelligence and all that stuff. Deep feeling is not enough. But B movie hacks, and Picasso, both feel a deep love for what they are doing. That's why they do it. And Screwtape is responding to that love and pure feeling with revulsion.

Saint Croix said...

Althouse sincerely loves her blog.

Althouse is not a hack.

Ann Althouse said...

@Deirdre You're noticing something I already said back at the linked post:

"Remember, the text is only the one paragraph at the link, not the whole book, and certainly not just the general idea of the book. This is a bit like the old Gatsby Project. Disregard extraneous material. Stick to the paragraph. With Gatsby, we could do it with sentences. That won't work with Screwtape. You have to bite off a whole bulky paragraph."

Saint Croix said...

Remember, the text is only the one paragraph at the link, not the whole book, and certainly not just the general idea of the book.

Yes, I'm referencing this...

The deepest likings and impulses of any man are the raw material, the starting-point, with which the Enemy has furnished him.

When he's talking about sincerity, he's talking about our "deepest likings and impulses."

The opposite of this would be like Mark Twain's definition of a classic as a book that everybody owns and nobody reads. That would be an example of insincerity.

That's exactly what Screwtape wants. He wants people to own "great" books and never read them. What annoys him and irritates him are people who own crappy books and love to read them.

He's annoyed at the love. That's what Lewis is talking about, real emotion.

I believe Picasso is following his own "deepest likings" and "impulses." Thus he is annoying to Screwtape. The devil would much prefer that Picasso is doing something he hates to do, and is miserable.

That's the context we have from Screwtape in our discussion about sincerity. If you have some different definition, that's fine. But you haven't told us what you mean when you say Picasso was a great artist because he was insincere.

When you say that great artists are insincere, I hear you saying great artists are fraudulent. And that leaves me scratching my head.

FleetUSA said...

I appreciated your "doggedly do". I'm sure others learned from the review of countries even if they never commented. After all in my experience Americans are very insular. So they need even the smallest exposure to the history of other countries.