Monday, November 14, 2011
I'm always grateful for wisdom, compassion and humour to sand the edges of heretical madness. I want to thank Neil Gaiman for being an emissary of that crinkled wisdom, grinning laughter, sober fourth and fifth thoughts (and sixth shots). I love Charles de Lint dearly, but today I needed Neil and only Neil would do.
First off, Troy Little posted a link to Frank Miller coming across like a lunatic about the Occupy movement (which made me come up with the idea that an Occupy Sin City poster would be quite interesting.) Then, while I was absorbing this and shaking my head, I read a Tweet from Scott McCloud about it: "BTW, No matter how batshit Frank's political rant may be, that's a great silhouetted drawing of him on his blog."
Then, I read a Tweet from Neil that lead to a post from 2006, which I'm reposting here, to better describe my own thoughts about it (content is copyright Neil Gaiman (c)2006):
Neil Gaiman's thoughts on "...not feeling guilty about liking the art of people [I] disagree with personally or politically..."
I've been a fan of your work for awhile now and I just came across your site. I've had this nagging question, about authors, stuck in my brain for awhile now and I thought you might have an answer or opinion.
If you really enjoy an author's stories and then you find out the author (not you) is a jerk or believes in some fairly wretched things would you keep reading this author's works?
I suppose it's similar to the whole crazy celebrity dilema. Do I really want to go see a movie that looks good even though that guy is in it?
If I were only allowed to read or enjoy art or listen to music made by people whose opinions and beliefs were the same as mine, I think the world would be a pretty dismal sort of a place. I love the work of many creators who self-avowedly believe or believed things that I consider to be "fairly wretched", not to mention wrong-headed, lunatic, irresponsible or simply wrong. Worse yet: there are artists, actors, songwriters, authors, whose work I love, like or admire and who, biographers or historians tell us, actually did things that were utterly reprehensible. And worse even than that, there are all those things by Anonymous, who could have been or thought or done, well, anything, and we'll never know...
Ezra Pound was a fascist, an antisemite on a level that makes the Aryan Nation seem wishy washy, a traitor (or at best, a collaborator), and I'm very glad I got to read his poetry, and appreciate it and learn from it. I could list dozens more without breaking a sweat. Most, probably all, human beings get to do awful things and believe things that other human beings think they should be burned for believing, and they get to do and believe wonderful things too, and artists, writers, musicians, creators, actors, are nothing if not human beings.
The art isn't the artist, the poem isn't the poet; trust the tale, not the teller.
(The sad flip-side is I've met people -- writers and artists -- over the years who I liked immediately, with whom I found myself agreeing on everything to do with art and aesthetics so closely that we might have shared the same head, people whose world-views were pretty much mine, whom I'd talk with far into the night and whom I parted from excited that I'd met them, looking forward to nothing more than reading their writing or looking at their art... and then I would find what they had done, and, at least as far as my taste was concerned, the books would be uninteresting, the drawings ugly or clumsy. And in an odd way, that hurts more than liking the work of someone who behaved badly, or thought in a way that I consider offensive or wrong.)
I'm an easy-going person, and like to try and get along with everyone I can. I hate being judgmental (and dislike being judged intensely), I avoid confrontation as much as possible. Finding comfort in an author's artful words for something that makes me uncomfortable and upset was such a relief and a soothing balm, I actually did send a quick reply to Neil in thanks. That is why they are the writers, these 'Kindly Ones', who can hammer the words together and throw them down for us to nod and grin at and to take that solace from.
In crashing about in Neil land, I came upon the following "I believe" from American Gods, which I would love to just have stapled to Womangue as an emblazoned motto (though it's rather large). Instead, I'll repost it here. Apparently it is available in t-shirt form at Neverwear. This is also copyright (c)2011 Neil Gaiman. Thank you so much.
"I can believe things that are true and I can believe things that aren't true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they're true or not. I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and Marilyn Monroe and the Beatles and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen–I believe that people are perfectible, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones who look like wrinkledy lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women. I believe that the future sucks and I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone's ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline of good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state. I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste. I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we'll all be wiped out by the common cold like the Martians in War of The Worlds. I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian shaman. I believe that mankind's destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it's aerodynamically impossible for a bumblebee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there's a cat in a box somewhere who's alive and dead at the same time (although if they don't ever open the box to feed it it'll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself. I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn't even know that I'm alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck. I believe that anyone who says that sex is overrated just hasn't done it properly. I believe that anyone who claims to know what's going on will lie about the little things too. I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies too. I believe in a woman's right to choose, a baby's right to live, that while all human life is sacred there's nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system. I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you're alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it."
The photo of Neil Gaiman at the top of the blog is by Allan Amato and is available in poster form
Sin City comic image is by Frank Miller.
Scott McCloud's head comic panel is by Scott McCloud.
The poster from American Gods is by Molly Crabapple.