5.02.2005

William Gass Interviewed at Hayden' Ferry Review

Hayden' Ferry Review published an interview with Gass, including this great quote:

I am gratified if some find my work beautiful. I try to make it so. But failure is the rule where excellence is the goal. I don't try to be dense or difficult or easy either. I try to realize the demands of the piece as it emerges. When I want to know what to do, I ask the text. If things are going well, it will tell me.

As serendipity will have it, I listened to the commentaries on the Simpsons' first season. In it, they include parts of an episode that they claim almost killed the series. Their complaints seem rather minor at first, but if you follow their commentaries on their chosen aesthetic, that their adherence to the "text" or their vision or the rules that they established helped create a consistent vision. One might argue that they could have been less consistent in some areas and more in others, but the final product is compelling.

Gass goes on, however, without fully thinking out what he has to say:

Only trash tries to be compelling.

This is probably what Shakespeare's elite contemporaries probably told him--despite the oversight of including a compelling artist, Gass claims he wants Shakespeare with him on a desert island.

There are all kinds of art. I'll try to make a case for Aliens, an action movie, as art. It may not be Shakespeare, but it gives food for thought.

Henry James, that pulp hack that Gass adores, wrote ghost stories. Why would the bastard ever pander to readers? Because maybe James let the story decide what audience it wanted to reach. Why not let the arts be judged by the rules they create?

(Problem: The fewer the rules, the closer the asymptotic arrow points toward boredom; which is why Aliens does not rival Shakespeare: It doesn't go after as much. This is also why Gass' rule struck a chord: "failure is the rule where excellence is the goal.")