A few words in praise of gentlemen | Superfluities Redux:
It has been my privilege to meet personally several artists whose work I first encountered and admired from a distance. What has struck me most often is how gentlemanly, in all the respects I mentioned above, that the most admirable artists have been in my presence. However they may have conducted themselves in private, in public–or in meeting strangers like myself–they have been unswervingly considerate, amiable, and open-minded, even when their work, like William Gaddis’s, has been most scathingly critical and acidic.
I have also had the opposite experience. Meeting critics and artists whose work I’ve admired, then discovering them to be personally arrogant, dismissive, and discourteous, was something of a rude awakening in the exact sense of that term. Oddly, perhaps, when I return to their work after these personal interactions, I’ve found it to be more flawed, more uneven than before–testimony, perhaps, to the presence of the artist, or the person, in the art. (This, by the way, is quite different from my attitudes to the work of those more gentlemanly writers I describe above. I hold the work of these writers in the same high estimation that I originally did, of course, but no higher.)