My last post about the seven year old winning a prestigious art contest probably felt like it came out of left field to most of you, but it is something that I've been thinking about for the past several months. What has happened in the world of literature is similar to what has happened in the world of art.
Up until the 20th century, anyone could look at a painting, fresco, sculpture, etc. and tell whether what they were looking at was done by a master artist or a student. Monet, Surat, Michaelangelo, Leonardo, Reynolds, etc. are master artists. No one has to tell you that, all you have to do is look at what they did and tell it was art.
Then we got into the 20th century and artists slapped their names on urinals and called it art. Or they laid out huge canvases, swung paint cans around slinging paint onto the canvas, and called it art. And now we have to have art connoisseurs, gallery owners, and art museum curators to tell us which contemporary artists are great and which are not. With the added bonus that you're an idiot if you can't tell how great these contemporary artists are. And if you like the work of Thomas Kincade or Christian Reise Lassen, then you're an ignorant slob with no taste or style.
I'm sorry. If I look at a painting and it looks like a drunk monkey was handed a paint brush, then it isn't great art. While Leilah Poulain's painting of a penguin is really good for a six year old, it belongs on her mom's refrigerator not hanging in a prestigious art gallery. This is a wake up call to the leaders of the art world: I hope they answer it.
As for how this relates to the literary world, a similar thing has happened in literature. Prior to the 20th century, you could tell whether you were reading a good story or poem.
Now we have fiction with no plot, no theme, no characters, no point... Existential, stream of consciousness brain barf that we're told is brilliant. If you can't tell how brilliant it is, then you're an ignorant, illiterate slob with no style or taste.
"And how dare the bookstores put my great literary masterpiece on the same shelf as bestselling novels written by talentless hacks."
Yeah. Right. I can't wait for the literati to get its wake-up call.