Comment on a Comment


Aatish Taseer

I very much appreciate supportive comments. They encourage me to up my game.

I quoted a paragraph from a remembrance of V.S. Naipaul published by Aatish Taseer in the NYTimes:

Taseer is a writer I had not encountered previously. What struck me in his account was the dynamic it expressed between him and his assassinated father. It had resonances of my relationship with my own father, who died a natural death, but whom I too mourn in a complicated way.

Taseer knew Naipaul personally — calls him his “cruel friend” — and seemed to take comfort from Naipaul’s wry advice: Say your father died in, not for, Pakistan. It implied support for a son’s or daughter’s not feeling obligated to buy unconditionally into glib lionizing of a celebrated parent. Somehow, the Yes, yes, yes! in the anecdote gave, for me, just the tilt needed to support the perverse humor and insight behind Naipaul’s targeted mischief with prepositions.

I have a distinct weakness for humor based on parts of speech.

A quotation should be allowed to speak for itself is my working philosophy. It’s quite possible, though, that a little framing of why it speaks to me would not be amiss sometimes. I’ll think seriously about that.

[Copyright (c) 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.]

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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3 Responses to Comment on a Comment

  1. cindy knoke says:

    Naipaul has been consistently related to be a cruel person.
    I have a very hard time separating art from the person who creates it, which is either a fault, or strength, depending on your opinion, and why I don’t like Woody Allen anymore, even though I still do love some of his old movies, before I knew what he was like. It is also why Nabokov has always failed to move me. And Roald Dahl, even though I liked his books. And Gauguin, honestly I didn’t even like his work that much, but liked it less when I learned of his pedophilia.

    Liked by 2 people

    • JMN says:

      Thanks so much for your comment. The quandary you mention is very real. I know little about Naipaul. Don’t know Dahl either except by name. Have admired Gauguin’s work, didn’t know about the pedophilia. I’ve liked the comedy of Cosby and Louis CK, but I can’t watch them now. I hope fervently that the abuses of women and children by men will diminish — better yet, disappear! — as more and more women acquire significantly more positions of influence and parity in every corner of our society. It’s still the case that men call the shots in too many crucial domains — law, government, entertainment — which allows abusers to hide and escape accountability. But these bold words of mine still don’t help figure out what the thinking person is to do about good art made by bad people, do they? I’m struggling there.


  2. Eric Wayne says:

    To judge art by the presumed moral character of the artist is about as useful as judging a meal by the political affiliation of the chef. The proof is in the pudding, and it might be wiser to judge the artist by the art, rather than the other way around (though the latter is much easier and requires one only be a passive recipient of the codes of conduct of his or her time). In fact, this kind of criticism is agonizingly and viciously myopic. An outstanding example of moralistic denunciation of art is this article savaging Gaugiun and Van Gogh:

    I have to ask myself is smug stupidity is itself immoral. Frequently, those who claim to be the most moral, are the least, the most intolerant and judgmental, which is why we had the inquisition and Pol Pot.

    Art and morality, and virtue and virtuosity, are not synonymous, and this is probably because morality is a subjective, relative, and even arbitrary imposition upon reality. Is nature moral? And is the “moral” truly moral, or is it an attempt to squash outliers who don’t conform to the mold society insists they be defined by?

    My critique of what passes for conventional morality is the same as of “social justice”: it’s insufficiently moral or just. When people have a trigger-finger to condemn, the are moralists, and not truly moral. They are if not the first to throw the stone, quick to join in.

    Liked by 1 person

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