Art and Anger

Busy couple of weeks in publishing: Macmillan and Penguin are girding for battle with the Department of Justice, the Pulitzer Prize for fiction went unawarded, The Atlantic published a gratuitously nasty review of The Art of Fielding, http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/05/a-swing-and-a-miss/8943/ and a writer I know keeps sending me links to stories heralding the end of books.  I’m tempted not to finish my blog post in case I’m trampled by a horseman of the apocalypse or raptured away.

Wait…  Nope. Still here.

I like to think of myself as an even-keel,  unflappable type (luckily, none of my siblings ever read this blog, so there is no one to dispute this claim) but even I found myself muttering angrily to myself over the last week or so, wondering if Eric Holder couldn’t find some better use of his time. A cursory glance at the headlines confirms that there is no shortage of systemic and perhaps more pressing injustice to which the DOJ might attend.  

After reading this piece, http://www.oregonlive.com/performance/index.ssf/2012/04/steve_jobs_adrienne_rich_mark.html however, I have resolved to channel my frustration in positive ways.   Start a tech company, maybe.  Paint a modernist masterpiece–floating red rectangles might be right.   Indeed, David Stabler at the Oregonian examines anger as a source of creativity. He looks at Steve Jobs, the painter Mark Rothko and poet Adrienne Rich, none of whom, you might note, are alive to “go thermonuclear” or otherwise argue with his thesis.  I’m not entirely sure I buy it, seems too closely related to the specious notion that artists ought to suffer, a subject the Guardian took on a few weeks back. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2012/apr/02/myth-of-the-suffering-artist  

What do you think? Does anger fuel your writing? Or does apoplexy stifle your muse?  Meanwhile, I’ll be sure to let you know if my irritation gives birth to something brilliant.

8 Responses to Art and Anger

  1. Kim says:

    I have to keep it at a simmering boil lest the anger take over and little typing is done while I’m stomping around the house and snarling at the moon. A certain amount of indignation does help me think about topics that then often feed into my writing. Just can’t let the outrage get too out of control. Or go on for too long.

  2. Tanis Mallow says:

    That’s when you write your explosive fight scenes. Live vicariously through your hero, ass-kick your (insert appropriate villain here – eg: boss/rude clerk/Ted Nugent), I mean antagonist.

  3. Bryan says:

    I read that review of THE ART OF FIELDING earlier–it still doesn’t strike me as being nasty. Truthful, yes. But I didn’t feel like he was taking shots at Harbach.

  4. Andrea says:

    I can only write with a peaceful and positive mind, but after an outburst of emotion (can be anger or sadness or fear or something else, though not depression)I usually think, hey, I can use this in my story, and then I make a quick note or write a random scene fragment.

  5. Siri Kirpal Kaur Khalsa says:

    I once funnelled my anger at how Sikhs were being treated after the 9/11 attacks into the creation of an organization that hosts interfaith services in my former community. Just got an emailed flyer. The services are continuing.

    I have the glimmer of a novel on hate crimes against Sikhs, which I’ll get to after completing the memoir that’s fueled, in part, by my irritation with those who would throw out the religion baby because of its yucky political bathwater.

    Neutral anger, anger directed towards positive ends. Yep. It gets the job done.

  6. Lorelei says:

    That was a gratuitously accurate review of The Art of Fielding. If you listen to the audiobook, even the narrator starts whining when delivering the main character’s annoying dialogue. What a directionless sniveler that young man becomes. The apparently arbitrary “romance?” Pass. And give John Irving his character’s first name back. Grrrr…

  7. Suilan says:

    A writer can channel any emotion or experience into his or her writing. When my heating was broken for a couple of days, I wrote the most magnificent scene where a character got lost in a bog in late fall and almost froze to death. :o)

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