Lunch with a curmudgeonly friend
I got into a bit of trouble with my Curmudgeonly Friend (the one who took the picture in the sidebar) today at lunch. Somehow we are stuck in this yin/yang thing where he is the defender of High Art so I have to be the scuzzy Lowbrow one, and I was doing my duty, mouthing off about pretentiousness - than which I like almost nothing less - and then I made the mistake of saying "well I never read poetry because so much of it is bad," and he took umbrage, maybe because he's a poet, but I like HIS poems (in fact when I first met him five years ago I'd describe him to friends as "a guy who write poems but they're good ones") and he knows I do.
So he said: you shouldn't be so lazy, you should try harder to be high-minded. And I said, I'm afraid of those slender volumes with the elegant typesetting, they all look sort of the same and so many of them are full of awful poems, it's like if you had a bowl full of jellybeans and they were all the same color but you knew that a few of them were your favorite flavor and all the rest would taste like baked beans, wouldn't you rather just give them all a pass?
And he said: just because a lot of poems are bad, doesn't mean you can ignore them all. And then we debated a truism frequently espoused by my former business partner Pat Sky, to wit:
99% of everything is s*%tBut my curmudgeonly friend took the optimistic side of the argument, opining that in fact only 97% of everything is s*%t, and it so surprised him to be sounding so upbeat that we had to stop for a while and eat some lunch.
And by the way, until just now I thought the expression was "to whit" but because I've been such a snob about spelling I thought I'd better check it and what do you know, I've been wrong about this my entire life.
So then I said, this problem with the poems and the jellybeans, I have this same problem with theater and also with fruit in the grocery store, because even though the pears look good, too many times I've brought them home and then they disappointed me, and I have the same problem with guys too, and maybe that's the problem with being half a century old, it's not that I'm jaded, it's just that I can't seem to forget the many disappointments accumulated over this lifetime and they've made me defensive and fearful.
Reverting after this philosophical interlude to my lowbrow role, I told him (as I had previously told another friend) that I recently bought a Shirley Hazzard book because people I respect recommended her, but after five pages I already didn't like it, and after fifteen more pages I started wondering if I really had to finish the book (in my younger years it was like, "clean your plate" - once I started the book I had to see it through, skimming was ok but no blatant skipping allowed), and five pages later I thought, "no, I don't have to finish it" and dropped it on the floor in disgust (actually I told him I threw it against the wall, but I was just exaggerating for effect), and he said he hadn't read Shirley Hazzard but I really ought to read Moby Dick.
So on the way home I stopped at the library and checked out a copy of Moby Dick. This in spite of remembering, as if it were yesterday, how much I hated Moby Dick when it was shoved down our throats in ninth grade. I REALLY hated having SYMBOLISM blabbed about and crooned over. Also, I thought it was stupid to hunt the white whale. Better to stay home and watch "The Biggest Loser" on TV.
UPDATE: I was pretty taken with the first 35 chapters of Moby Dick but then Ahab showed up. What a blowhard, if you'll pardon the expression. Then I reeled when presented with the overblown "Descartian vortexes." The book's due back at the library soon. Will I slog my way through it or just slip it in the return slot?
Technorati Tags: Philosophy, Highbrow, Lowbrow, Art, Moby Dick