"First of all, it’s not my job to make people feel better about liking something that is really, really popular"

Agree wholeheartedly:

There may be another kind of friendly fascism at work here too, but let me at least try to say some nice things first. I realize that there’s no way to mollify the devotees of the Marvel movie universe, who not only demand total box-office domination (which they’re definitely going to get, at least this weekend) but also total toadying subservience to the tide of Irresistible Marvel Fun. First of all, it’s not my job to make people feel better about liking something that is really, really popular. There are a whole lot of places you can get that, and honestly that desire for universal affirmation is kind of bizarre.

I found that bit of the review to be accurate, and the worldview it describes a bit confusing. Through many years of reading, watching movies, listening to music, etc, I'm not sure that I've ever had the coercive expectation that people like the things I like. I can remember being an R.E.M. and Rolling Stones fan in high school and carrying around the expectation that I'd be the only one and that was fine. In some ways better, of course, for all the usual reasons of snobbery, which has its own pleasures.

This is not to say I don't have opinions--any reader of this blog will know better than that--nor that I don't have an internal hierarchy of aesthetic pleasures. I just can't imagine having my day ruined because someone disagrees, because most people will probably disagree. And that's fine. Roberto Bolaño's 2666 seems to me a masterpiece, and I am happy to put together an argument to that effect. But I can just as easily imagine thinking it good but not particularly liking it, or envision those technical and substantive choices in constructing the book that I find compelling not being the sort of thing to which someone else might respond, and I can even conceptualize rejecting 900-page books on principle. I like the book for objective reasons and for subjective reasons about the point in my life when I read it. That combination won't be replicated for anyone else, so even someone who thinks well of the book will do so for different reasons.

If there's a cause for this sort of attitude (see also what happens when I mention to certain people never having seen The Wire or Breaking Bad), it's the idea of a aesthetic object as a cultural signal. It's hard to get worked up about someone's feelings on any one particular book when your universe is "books, obviously, though some and not others"--any particular one is fungible, and not liking one book may be balanced by liking another--or many others.


Chris Lawrence said...

Interesting, but what is this a quote from?

Nicholas said...

Link added. Whoops!