Friday, June 25, 2004

To be or not to be -- famous

Did the ancient artists who painted scenes on cave walls or laboriously turned over rocks on the desert plateau of Nazca care about whether or not they were famous, if what they did would have hundreds, thousands, even millions flocking to the sites to marvel at their artistry, their vision, or were they crackpots, crazy idiots who had nothing better to do with their time?

Today, the only thing that matters is if a book is a best seller. It doesn't matter whether or not the book is useful or even visionary, if it advances literature or is just plain artistic crap selling out like meatballs at a community fund raiser spaghetti dinner or bean feast.

The latest hype is dedicated to Bill Clinton's autobiography and everyone is surprised at the clamor for the book before it even launches. Small surprise, as the On the Media article states, since the media have hyped Clinton's latest public shell game like the second coming. A 957-page journey into the heart and mind of the most self aggrandizing and unrepentant publicity hound in recent history is worth about as much as a trip to the public library to read in the stacks. But the hungry masses will clamor for their own personal copy like anxious parents stampeding toy stores for Tickle Me Elmo or the latest must-have toy. Give me a break.

When did words cease to matter? When did literature become artistic crap that sells better than gold and lasts longer?

Earlier today I pondered those ancient artists who painted on cave walls, wondering if they were visionaries, priests, or crackpots. Did they know their work would remain for all time and mark them as the voice of their age? Does it matter? Isn't the fact that they existed enough? And if so, why does it matter that a wealthy parasite, who will feed off the bodies of the masses and take a percentage of their earnings for his own comfort for the rest of his life, has found yet another way to dip into the dwindling well and gather more wealth at the country's -- and the world's -- expense?

That time and circumstance made it possible for those ancient artists' work to endure doesn't mean we should be bilked into buying into yet another media hyped book with the staying power of dandelion fluff in a fire storm. How do we want to be remembered when our time is past, by the egotistical sensibilities of a Freudian wet dream or by the vision and words of true artistry? I guess in the end only time and circumstance will determine what will be saved and what will be lost to the ages. Of course, Clinton's book stands a chance of outdistancing everything worthwhile of words, thoughts, and deeds since there will be more of his books left behind for time to attempt to swallow. After all, it is harder to digest a dinosaur turd than it is to swallow a hummingbird's tongue.

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