5 may. 2005

Suppose a debate rages all night long on the respective merits of Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. Although neither of the two participants in the debate dislikes either saxophone player, each has a strong preference for one style. At the end of the debate the factor of "taste" might enter, as a space for describing how ones individual central nervous system is better suited to listening to Coltrane or Rollins. One interlocutor might just say: "my central nervous system prefers to follow the architecture of construction of Rollins' solos, whereas yours prefers the hypnotic repetitions of Coltrane, let's leave it at that. I prefer the wit of Rollins, you identify with the more solemn tone of Coltrane." The discussion cannot really go any further because the participants have hit rock bottom. There's some irreducibly personal element not susceptible to more discussion.

On the other hand, if we change Sonny Rollins to Kenny G in the above example, the appeal to taste no longer works in the same way, because the terms up for debate are not even comparable in merit. Or if it's a clearly bad student poet who says "You don't like my work, but that's just your TASTE. I deserve an A in this class." The professor has to be able to say, look, it's not just taste; you have a long way to go as a writer. Would it make sense to say, "crappy student poems by inexpert writers are just not to my taste"? That might seem odd, but maybe it's an opening into something more fascinating:

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), the line between taste and judgment is impossible to demarcate so clearly. One woman's taste is another man's judgment. Some people even write "judgement" instead.

What if the debates were between proponents of Bukowski {spelling correct here?} and Updike? I can see how either could be seen as a very lousy writer or as a very good writer, with very good-sounding reasons on all four sides of the debate. There might even be someone with the genius for finding the merit in crappy undergraduate poems--maybe a comix artist who could find the exact images to create a kitschy classic out of them. There is a certain genius in recontextualizing, but that's perhaps fodder for another post.

3 comentarios:

Henry Gould dijo...

Like this!

I'm back, by the way, idiot that I am.

Jonathan dijo...


Back on your blog, I see. I'll have to re-add my link to HG Poetics, which I had deleted when I changed formats, thinking you were giving it up.

Henry Gould dijo...

sorry, Jonathan!!!