Preachy Art

In Philip Roth’s 1998 novel I Married a Communist, a young woke student brings a professor a play he wrote. And this is what the professor says about it:

This play of yours is crap. It’s awful. It’s infuriating. It is crude, primitive, simple-minded, propagandistic crap. It blurs the world with words. And it reeks to high heaven of your virtue. Nothing has a more sinister effect on art than an artist’s desire to prove that he’s good. . . Start preaching and taking positions, start seeing your own perspective as superior, and you’re worthless as an artist, worthless and ludicrous. Why do you write these proclamations? Because you look around and you’re ‘shocked’? Because you look around and you’re ‘moved’? People give up too easily and fake their feelings. They want to have feelings right away, and so ‘shocked’ and ‘moved’ are the easiest. The stupidest. Except for the rare case, Mr. Zuckerman, shock is always fake. Proclamations. Art has no use for proclamations! Get your lovable shit out of this office, please.

There’s truly nothing to add.

3 thoughts on “Preachy Art

  1. ‘shocked’ and ‘moved’ are the easiest. The stupidest. Except for the rare case, Mr. Zuckerman, shock is always fake.

    I feel this about most of contemporary literary fiction. Authors have nothing real to say, no interesting insight to offer, so they immediately go for the heartstrings (dead or sick family members! rape! substance abuse!) as if these topics automatically mean depth.

    Liked by 1 person

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