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Walter Pater’s famously conclusive dictum states that all art aspires to the ideal form, which is music. Such absolutism always has a nagging spirit of generic relativity winking behind it, saying any item A aspires to idealistic state B. All art aspires to life. All living aspires to art, etc. One ends up saying very little at all, or at best a reductive & mealy kind of platonic formalism. One tends to downplay the interesting nature of those original forms, by saying these lesser forms aspire to some other perfection.

The Sirens chapter of Ulysses is probably the most exhaustive rebuttal and inversion of Pater’s dictum. It translates music so thoroughly into prose one mightn’t desire any further music. At least, that was the effect on Joyce. The prose itself is the most literal musical poetry.

Maybe all art forms tenaciously desire a state of superstatement (a formal extension of supersizing) where the medium says as much as possible about all contiguous forms and realities it crumbles under its own gargantuan mass and reference, unheeding the reader/consumer’s ill-health or ultimate enjoyment of other arts. Much like Ulysses. But unlike so much music.

The dictum applies to criticism as well, since critics are moved to elucidate crossovers and congruities of form, not celebrate their limits and boundaries. All criticism aspires to generality. All creation to particularity.

One could also get finicky in the intraformal sense: all Beethoven aspires to Bach. All Amis aspires to Bellow and all Gonzo writing aspires to High Journalism. With simple critics’ catch cries as opposed to the steady system or analysis of talent.

I’d be tempted to simplify the aspiration to a movement. Forms aspire to an ideal or standard which by implication broadens their own scope. It could be a role model or previous incarnation or history of form, an extension or adaptation of style. It’s the dialogue, or the wonderfully generic-apposite metaphor of the journey between the two that fuse with talent to create individuated and seeming-ideal because well-executed works.

All this as a waffling preamble to observing a tendency of preference in my reading and viewing of late — for works which seem by way of the forms & styles of the essay to point or allude to the creatively calm and open aspirant state of the meditation. DFW, Godard et al.

posted by rino breebaart  # 1:04 pm
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Alternatively, read about it at: The Slow Review or the long blog. Or even Nurture Health

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