February 23rd, 2019

What People Respond To

In the Wall St. Journal today there was an article by a college professor who found that his students responded well to a course on Arthur Miller, whose heyday was in the 1950s. He said that Miller became passe partly because his plays followed a formal pattern and because Miller was a universalist not an identity-politics guy.

As an aside, the formal pattern is that of the Scribean well-made play, as re-worked by Ibsen, whose structure really goes way back to the ancient Greeks and probably well before that. Basically it's a story with a beginning, middle, end and some kind of point. In the 60s, there was a concerted effort to depart from this structure. Anyway, most people stayed loyal to the structure in their heart of hearts, because there's something primally human about it.

I was also reading an excerpt from an essay about Chinese science fiction. The claim was that Chinese scifi is still full of energy and optimism, and that this remains true for American scifi films, but not for American scifi writing. Well, I suspect that's true for some segment, but certainly not all, because I've certainly seen recent energetic scifi writing, including some by Sarah Hoyt and Lois McMaster Bujold. Probably they're not the people the Chinese are perceiving as high-status in terms of American critical reception.

Critical reception can be misleading
About what people are actually reading.