Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Gospel According to St. Pauline

Kael might have been talking about Sontag when she wrote, "I don't trust critics who say they care only for the highest and the best; it's an inhuman position, and I don't believe them." Her own appetite for what she called trash was, according to her, half of what made her (and makes each one of us) a critic. "I think the sense of feeling qualified to praise and complain in the same breath is part of our feeling that movies belong to us," she wrote. "Going to the movies was more satisfying than what the schools had taught us was art. We responded totally-which often meant contemptuously, wanting more, wanting movies to be better." Next to Kael's catholicity, Sontag's high-mindedness-her horror of the vulgar and the low-makes her look thin-skinned and finicky, a kind of modernist Margaret Dumont.

-- Seligman, Craig. 2004. Sontag and Kael: Opposites Attract Me. New York: Counterpoint.

7 comments:

Tulkinghorn said...

The Kael "we"... The tedious assumption that the world is full of art-hating, speed-sex-and-violence-loving, anti-prudes.

How the simple negation of high-mindedness becomes catholicity is mysterious to me.

Generic said...

The first quotation was the one I went looking for.

She's writing about critics, of course, very much in the spirit of Warshow's "the critic must acknowledge that he is that man."

Tulkinghorn said...

I see. I was ready to attack this guy for getting Sontag completely wrong -- it was my impression that Sontag had built her career on examining the relationships between high and low art -- but your link indicates that he knows more than I do about it.

"The critics who say they care for only the highest and the best.." Seems like a straw man to me, at least in movies.

Generic said...

At the time it wasn't a straw man. She and Sarris were battling (in addition to each other) critics who thought movies needed to be redeemed by European art directors. Now possibly things have swung too far the other way. Now we all know how cool Sam Raimi is.

Christian Lindke said...

We all know how cool Sam Raimi is, but we also all know how much he is disdained by "real" critics. One only needs recall a conversation at the one Hungry Ghost reunion I attended to see how real critics have disdain for the common.

Generic said...

Gee, I wonder who you could be thinking of...

Tulkinghorn said...

Must have been that guy who sat at our table whom it turned out no one knew..

For my part, I agree with Proust, who said that snobbery is the unpardonable sin.