I'm not so sure expose bios are inherently evil. They tend to re-open the
conversation, as witness Lawrance Thompson's scorpionlike bio of Frost
(albeit not of the "bowel-genital variety)or Louise DeSalvo's book on
Woolf; in the latter instance the book prompted a response by Nigel
Nicolson (among others) in his new, short bio of VW. I rather think any
biographer is likely to pour him-/herself into the pursuit of his subject
-- as is notoriously the case with Richard Holmes, author of bios of
Shelley and Coleridge -- and to become subjectively involved, risking too
close an approach. But that's the nature of the genre.
At 07:46 AM 5/30/2001 EDT, you wrote:
<excerpt><bold><fontfamily><param>Arial Narrow</param>In a message dated
5/29/01 3:22:29 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
[log in to unmask] writes:
<excerpt>This might not be a word I would thought of using before quoting
Joseph Campbell but what is wrong with compassion?
People more interested in the artist's life than in the art don't exactly
qualify as compassionate. Most of them have no interest in art, or an
inability to relate to it <underline>as art</underline>, from which they
take off in either of two
1) They like to know all the dirt about the artist, as they take this to
justify their disinterest in the art.
2) They feel an animosity towards, or jealousy of, artists, and therefore
enjoy hearing anything scabrous that in their own minds will allow them
feel superior to the artist.
I'm not, of course, referring to bonafide biographers, who can be
becaused they take a neutral or balanced stance--they want to see the
picture about the artist, including both the good and the bad. There's a
difference between this and bowel-genital "biography," which focuses
exclusively on aspects of the artist's life that tend to hold him/her up
ridicule...and also tend to detract attention from the work.
Beyond the anti-intellectualism, there's often a double standard involved
withthe bowel and genital folks. Those who would find it intrusive to be
asked to discuss their own sexual proclivities take pleasure in gloating
what they believe to be Eliot's sexual proclivities.
Certainly people are free to use poetry, and the arts generally, for
purposes they want, including actual or metaphorical toilet paper. So
not a major catastrophe if a person needs to work out his or her personal
hangups by projecting them on to some artist or another. It's just that I
rather gag at hearing it called "compassionate," and the word that came
mind for me more quickly was "sick."
James F. Loucks, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of English
Coordinator of English
Department of English
The Ohio State University at Newark
1179 University Drive
Newark, OH 43055-1797
Fax 740 366-5047
[log in to unmask]
2416 Brentwood Road
Bexley, OH 43209-2106