The WSJ has a very good and perhaps provocative article about popular culture, Elmore Leonard, and some TV series. Some will agree with the premise; others might be pig-biting mad. But a good read. Thoughts? (Hope I got the link in there correctly.) Lee Lamothe

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To me, making one's spirit soar is not the mark of art. Art is affecting, true, but it can do that in a way that makes the viewer examine himself and his beliefs in a way he would not have otherwise. In that regard, The Sopranos, Breaking BAd, and The Wire all qualify as among the highest forms of art.

Thank you. I have been changed or moved by many books -- it's why I read, to experience the adventure that thrills me emotionally. It's just never a book the critics would call high art. Maybe Catcher in the Rye?

making one's spirit soar is not the mark of art. 

Well, to me,  it's one of the marks.  True, there are others. But on this subject I am not going to argue. Everyone's entitled to their opinion. I'm not trying to change yours or anyone else's. I believe what I believe, and that's good enough for me.

"These are large-scale works of art that aim higher than their popular counterparts."

This is the classic BS -- as if the reader cared what the writer aimed for. Only critics care. And while there are many here who disagree, I say your great works of art move me, too -- in the bowels.

I just posted 10 books that had special resonance off the top of my head for a challenge on Facebook. They were a very mixed batch. We are all moved by different things at different times. Pity the person who isn't moved (or only moved in the bowels.)

That's not very nice, Jack. :)  

Will say, however, that I  don't much like critics either. But they do play a role, and are necessary, in that  they can also  provoke us and make us think. 

As Ingrid says, we are all "affected" by different kinds of art at different times. This has more to do with us than with the art itself. The novel written in the 19th century is the same then as it was now---but our attitudes change. If that novel still speaks to us, we may call it "art."  

The one thing I disagree with in that article is the large scale part, and the aiming. Not everyone who sets out to "aim high" and make great art succeeds---in fact, many fail---and some who don't care whether they're making great art are later elevated to a status to which they never aspired. 

"Your" great works of art?    Who is this "you" ?  Not me. Just because  I may praise a Botticelli  (to use an example) doesn't mean it's "mine."  It made me happy to see it, it satisfied some inner need I didn't know I had, but it belongs to the world. Perhaps I'm moved because a painting created hundreds of years ago is still so alive, still has the power to delight and mystify. 

 No one owns any work of art. They are there for all of us. To be enriched and nurtured, provoked, whatever. That experience is personal, and no one else can or should belittle it. 

Shakespeare and Euripides were the popular entertainment of their day. Dickens serialised his novels and thereby reached a much wider audience.

At what point in time does a creative work cross the line between being popular and becoming art?

Oh yeah!

I was about to make that point. Teachout seems to assume that the split between popular culture and high art is a constant, when in fact it's recent.

For many years music was my preoccupation. Even in the late 19th century Verdi and Wagner were both high art and popular culture. Then in the 20th century composers like Schoenberg began to treat success with a large audience as contemptible.

That's what I meant about "time" sifting the good from the mediocre. :) 

It's true that just because something IS popular doesn't mean it's not good, or even great. But there's an awful lot of work that is very  popular that is  garbage. 

There are artists who were not considered to be anything special in their own time, who are now considered to be "great" artists because somehow, what they accomplished spoke to other generations. And there are those lauded in their own day who fell into obscurity. 

This is very true.  The reverse is also true:  that highly popular works of the past are now considered mediocre or worse.

This raises the issue of criteria.  Popularity may help, but it isn't ultimately a good predictor of quality. The safest criterion remains time, since all the rest have been established by academics after the fact.  They have based them on what they found in works that have lasted, and they still apply those criteria to current books.

The simple fact is that you cannot argue the issue with "I know what I like!" 

Two excellent points, Ingrid, both of which, I think, help to invalidate Teachout's point. We're in no position to evaluate what is "art" from among contemporary culture. We know what aspires to be art, what represents itself as art, and what others might like to say is art because it suits their purpose, but none of us will be around to "know" which among all our current possibilities, will actually meet the standard,


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