Today I finished A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. I loved it. I should also hasten to add that I expected to hate it to be completely honest and I loved it and found it difficult to put down. So it had a high peak to surmount with me and this book slam dunked it (oh, I'm mixing metaphors again. Well, I've buttered my bread and now I must lay in it.)
It reminded me of talks with friends I had in the 1990s. One of the common topics of conversation was how we assumed that that time in history would probably be remembered as a Dark Age for literature. "Where are all of the great writers?" we would say "Whither literature?"
Lately I've found an abundance, which makes me think that either we have suddenly entered a Golden Age for literature in the past few years, or I had my head up places one ought not have one's head up in the 1990s. I would expect the latter to be the case.
I guess it started with the discovery of Augusten Burroughs and David Sedaris for me.
And there are so many great new writers out there that I find myself loving unabashedly and recommending wholeheartedly (Neil Gaiman, Mark Danielewski, Susanna Clarke. The list of names doesn't matter except to possibly point you in a few directions.) Modern people I suspect may be great is one of my literature kicks right now. Sometimes I strike gold. Sometimes I strike crap, but that's not what I'm on about in this post.
At the moment I have borrowed The Time Traveller's Wife which seems to be one of those books for people who collect images from Italian Vogue, are anxious for the new Regina Spektor album, and do a lot of crafts with bright colors; (In case you didn't know, I am the strange, rare beast of a heterosexual man who falls into that category) and Infinite Jest (which was on my list at the beginning of the year of books that I want to read before I die but find daunting and so will do my best to get through this year in spite of how much they scare me. Or maybe because of how much they scare me) by the incomparable David Foster Wallace. We are all walking on a poorer planet since he has joined with the infinite himself.
I was struck the other day by a comment I read by a young person who said that they were ashamed of the time in which they live for the dearth of good music. I have to say that I have no idea what they were talking about. I think the past 5 years or so have turned out to be sort of a golden age for the arts. Bear in mind that I came of the age where popular music consumes one's identity in the early 1990s. That, my friends, was a dark age for popular music. I am hard pressed to come up with popular music from my teens that I still love.
Today I can barely turn on my computer without discovering a new Airborne Toxic Event, The Ting Tings, Regina Spektor, Department of Eagles, Beirut, Animal Collective, M. Ward, Kaki King, Lykke Li, Fleet Foxes, Jonathan Coulton, Le Loup, Dan Deacon (love love love Dan Deacon), The Tallest Man on Earth, Zoe Keating, Of Montreal, Joanna Newsom, and the list goes on and on. All of which I love. Do you realize how rare it has been in my short life to find new popular music that I like until the past 5 years? If I had been of high school age today I might not be the classical music geek I've become.
So thank God for that.
And if we're talking about what I so snobbishly refer to as "serious music" or composition, such exciting changes. For the first time in 50 years composers are getting over film scores, atonality and minimalism. Not that those have disappeared, but it is as if the modern composer has become comfortable living and working in the modern world. And without ignoring the trends and lessons built in the past 50 years, they feel the freedom to compose pieces that are, not to be too harsh or too classicist, enjoyable for a change. I have heard reliable reports that television shows have finally risen to some level of greatness. I don't care how good they get though. I still won't turn the dad-blamed thing on to save my life. I push it for myself just watching Lost every eight months or so. I am very comfortable staring at this particular lighted screen for many hours thank you very much.
There has been a grand resurge in art films, magazine culture, sculpture, live theater, street art. Modern Architecture has become delightful.
There is a wealth of really great art out there now. I am finding this to be a hard period in which to remain a staunch classicist. I encourage everyone to experience it! Dig. There are gems about.
And get involved. Make great art. The excuse of being a drop in the ocean is a cop out. Go out and make some great art, all of you, no matter who you are. We ought to because we are going to die one day, which ought to make us love one another, and ought to make us wake up every morning burning to do electric things. Like I said in the anonymity post, don't worry about what will happen to it or to you. Just start aiming at the stars (in the inspirational way. Not in the Wernher Von Braun way.)
But please don't try to tell me that there is no great new art happening in the world. If you look around you and still think so, all the more reason to take matters into your own hands. Why not create the kind of art you would like to see?