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What is Art?

Ms. Kinsale has went on to clarify that her post was more about differentiating books from a service industry. To some degree I agree with her, but the whole discussion raise an interesting point for me as to what is art. Ms. Kinsale’s argues books should not be subject to the whims of the market because to allow your writing to be controlled in such a manner reduces the writer’s ability to be brilliant, original, and creative. (am paraphrasing here, of course). And that the creative process of writing is art. To extrapolate further, the end product of the creative process is art. The book is art.

Art is such a difficult term to use because I think it is hard to define. Kinsale starts with the premise that art of fiction deserves respect. I don’t really have a good definition for art, but the theorum that Kinsale presents has problems because the first statement in the hypothesis is not an absolute truth.

a) all fiction is art
b) all art deserves respect
c) all fiction deserves respect

Would that include fan fics or any other fictional piece of work (what about Opal Mehta)? Or is it just published fiction that is art? Does that include any ebook or self published work? Or is it just NY Published books that are art? So then it is NY who decides what is art? Awful conclusion.

Where does that leave us? Imo, it’s all in the eye of the beholder as to what is art and what is respect. (as even acknowledged by Ms. Kinsale in a response “Only the person writing the review or making the comment can answer for themselves.”) There can be no consenus as to what is art because it is about point of view. The famous saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” isn’t famous for nothing. That statement is a universal truth.

We could debate for hours about what is art and what is respect but I think that something all readers and all authors can agree on is that we love the written word. I love to read it. Authors love to use it to tell the story. We readers want authors to write the best story in them, in whatever way that they can. But we aren’t responsible for an author’s actions that diminishes that ability. I.e., if reviews (snarky or no) kill you and your creative process, you must rise above the compulsion to read reviews. If reader comments that are negative are harmful to you and limit your vision, don’t go to places where negative comments are likely to appear. As Ms. Kinsale says “If I have to protect it from readers, I will protect it, viciously.”

Please do so. It’s what the readers want too.

Best regards,

Jane

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

14 Comments

  1. Tara Marie
    May 18, 2006 @ 09:58:48

    a) all fiction is art
    b) all art deserves respect
    c) all fiction deserves respect

    Ack… you’ve brought me back to Critical Thinking and Semantics, good lord, I hated that class.

    “If I have to protect it from readers, I will protect it, viciously." Don’t you think this an “artiste” being properly dramatic?–LOL

  2. Jane
    May 18, 2006 @ 10:07:17

    Oh, it’s dramatic all right. Her whole post is dramatic. But Kinsale is an author who is living the courage of her convictions. She has a completed book that publishers want to buy but won’t sell it until she has the right contract. I think that gives her license to be dramatic.

  3. Tara Marie
    May 18, 2006 @ 10:17:46

    She has a completed book that publishers want to buy but won’t sell it until she has the right contract. I think that gives her license to be dramatic.

    Hey, you’re preaching to the choir, I’m a Kinsale fangirl. It would be nice if most authors had the same courage of her convictions.

    I found what she wrote honest and couldn’t find fault with it. She is probably one of the few authors who write for shear pleasure of creating. In fact I love what she added this morning, about not writing for the “market”.

  4. Jane
    May 18, 2006 @ 10:22:04

    I found what she wrote honest and couldn’t find fault with it. She is probably one of the few authors who write for shear pleasure of creating. In fact I love what she added this morning, about not writing for the “market".

    Agreed. But I find it a bit ironic that her original OP piece needed so much clarification and her clarification today made the point without all the drama. If her original OP piece had been what she wrote, I wouldn’t have challenged her opinions at all.

    In her original OP piece, though, I think she was doing more than making the point of not writing for the market. She ended with making the charge that all fiction as art deserved respect and that is where many readers disagreed.

  5. Tara Marie
    May 18, 2006 @ 10:38:50

    She ended with making the charge that all fiction as art deserved respect and that is where many readers disagreed.

    But, for her fiction is art, she doesn’t come at it from a readers point of view, she comes at it from the creative point of view. Artists and art lovers have different perspectives, for many artists it’s the process that deserves as much respect as the end result. The art lover only sees the end product and then determines whether or not it should be respected.

    By trying to compare perspectives, we’re ultimately comparing apples and oranges and that never works.

  6. Bev (BB)
    May 18, 2006 @ 10:51:19

    I did not sleep well last night so this may make less sense than normal, but I honestly have no problems with what she’s saying, either in the original peice or in the comments later – as long as I read it as written for other writers. When I read it as directed as readers, though, I end up scratching my head and wondering what all the fuss is about. I think it’s because she seems to give very clear “instructions” for how writers should respect the art that make so much sense. I actually wish more writers online would use them. Truly. ;p

    By contrast, simply exhorting readers to respect the art seems pretty vague. So, if we do already, what then? What exactly is it that she expects from us? That’s not at all clear to me from anything she’s said yet. If one of you can find something along those lines that I missed, please point it out to me because her writing on the topic otherwise is so beautifully expressive I’d love find out I’m reading this one wrong.

  7. Bev (BB)
    May 18, 2006 @ 11:22:28

    But, for her fiction is art, she doesn’t come at it from a readers point of view, she comes at it from the creative point of view. Artists and art lovers have different perspectives, for many artists it’s the process that deserves as much respect as the end result. The art lover only sees the end product and then determines whether or not it should be respected.

    By trying to compare perspectives, we’re ultimately comparing apples and oranges and that never works.

    Absolutely, Tara, but the thing is that “she” introduced the other perspective by saying readers should respect the art. (emphasis mine)

  8. Maili
    May 18, 2006 @ 12:02:33

    I have mixed feelings about the whole topic because, frankly, I still don’t understand what point Kinsale was trying to make. What is she saying, exactly? I think this is where confusion comes in.

    Ironically because her point wasn’t clear, while she’s indeed an artist, she’s a poor communicator. In fairness she did say that she couldn’t think of a better replacement for ‘art’. I think ‘creativity’ would be better because I think it’s something we all understand and, possibly, sympathise with.

    Even though, while it might be an intensely personal experience for an author to pen her story, it still doesn’t make sense to me at the end of the day because:

    a) why sell this precious child to us readers, via publisher? For money? For validation? For glory? For what?

    b) would one not think that by the fact that a reader is willing to spend money on a book, the reader is showing respect, anyway?

    c) if we ought to respect an author’s right to protect her book, then authors ought to respect a reader’s right to protect her opinions of the book.

    Oh, so many questions and so few answers. And one massive hangover.

  9. Bev (BB)
    May 18, 2006 @ 12:12:12

    Thank you, Maili. I could kiss you. Okay, I’d have to kiss Jane first because I knew she and I were hunting in the same direction if not towards the exact same thought but, otherwise, I was beginning to wonder if I’d lost the ability to understand what everyone else was reading.

    Mixed feelings. Exactly. Not disagreement but not understanding either.

  10. Robin
    May 18, 2006 @ 17:22:54

    Ultimately I think Kinsale is the kind of writer who has a basic reverence for writing — for the sheer power of words and what they can do in the world in both grand and mundane ways. You can write an “I love you” note on the fridge, a lyrical love letter, a lullaby for a newborn baby, or an incendiary document that announces revolution and the establishment of a new nation. You can build barriers and tear down walls and all sorts of other things I have nothing but trite cliches to describe. When Kinsale talks about respecting writing as an “art,” I think that’s what she’s ultimately getting at (I’m not presuming to know, just surmising as best I can). It’s a dramatic argument for people who see the potential “bigness” in writing (I’m one of them, BTW), and while sometimes it can seem all aloof and stuffy, I really think it’s about this urge to get people to share your sense of passion over how important words and language and communication and writing CAN be. I might be completely wrong here — she might be saying something more or less or different — but that’s how I read her comments regarding the whole art and writing thing.

  11. Maili
    May 19, 2006 @ 10:14:20

    Robin. Oh, I get her point about that aspect, but she still hasn’t explained why she needed to say it at all.

    I’m sorry but in a way the letter reminds me of my uncle who drunkenly rambled about the soul of Scotland; he was very poetic and, you know, the way he waxed it was absolutely beautiful, but none of us understood what prompted him to say it nor why he felt the need to say it at all. He’s born a poet and it shows in his speeches, but unfortunately he tends to forget to clue us in.

    Not that I’m saying that Kinsale is a drunk [my uncle is, but that's besides the point], but that is how the letter seems to me. It’s very pretty, elegant and – to me – quite obvious, but the purpose of the letter had me scratching my head.

  12. Robin
    May 19, 2006 @ 12:12:21

    Robin. Oh, I get her point about that aspect, but she still hasn’t explained why she needed to say it at all.

    I don’t know the answer to that question, either, Maili, but one thing I know for myself: whenever I feel the need to make a big statement, it’s usually because I need to convince myself of something by way of trying to talk everyone else into buying it. The parts that stuck out to me from Kinsale’s piece were the parts where she mused about the attraction/repulsion impulse regarding reader feedback. There seemed to be elements of confession and anxiety about how difficult it really is to keep the writing all about the author all the time. So Kinsale makes her statement, swears she’s gonna stay quiet about it, then takes a tour around the Web and comes back to clarify. LOL! I so totally relate to that struggle! I don’t know, it’s like that comment I made about authors inventing their readers; at some point maybe we’re all doing that because WE need to be convinced of whatever it is we’re saying, and we then need it witnessed somehow. I could be totally wrong, of course.

  13. Bev (BB)
    May 19, 2006 @ 13:20:13

    Actually, I don’t think you’re that far off, Robin, because I also got a strong sense of that, especially when what she wrote is read as specifically intended for writers. I can definitely understand that an ideal is sometimes very difficult to attain, no matter how much one strives to achieve it. A constant struggle and all that. Still, like Maili said, I’m not sure why she felt the need to state something so obvious. The strange thing is that it actually seemed to be more obvious to “readers” than to other authors. Did anyone else notice that?

  14. Meljean
    May 19, 2006 @ 17:18:45

    It’s very pretty, elegant and – to me – quite obvious, but the purpose of the letter had me scratching my head.

    For me, as well. I thought some of the descriptions she had of the creative process and writing were right on, gorgeous and made me say, “Yeah! I recognize that!” but I didn’t come away with anything that I didn’t go in with — in fact, I’m not sure I came away with anything but those pretty words, and a bit of confusion over a) who it was intended for and b) why it was its own post instead of a response to the original post. (I tend to lean toward the “it was for herself” and a reflection of her struggle with feedback, as Robin posted above.)

    Like the gorgeous model in the print ad; you remember her face and her clothes, but you just can’t remember the name of the shoes she was selling.

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