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« Art is Long, Life is Weird | Main | Free Reads -- Pre-Code Hollywood »

November 25, 2002

Free Reads -- Q&A archive

Friedrich --

Are you as fond of the q&a form as I am? I sometimes feel sorry for the interviewee, who's often spent years developing a subject and a style and who's now expected to deliver the essential goods in an hour or less. Yet the first thing I do when I get interested in a recent artist is search for q&a's he's done. It's an amazingly efficient way to get up to some kind of speed.

A resource for q&a junkies I hadn't run across before just came to my attention: an archive of interviews with a fun range of book people, from Nicholson Baker to Anthony Lane, readable here. The interviewer, Robert Birnbaum, gives his subjects plenty of space, as well as attentive and sensitive questioning.

Sample passage, from an interview with Alain de Botton:

Birnbaum: Let's talk about the sublime. You introduce this notion as a kind of substitute for traditional religious worship in the 19th century.

AB: The sublime is a feeling provoked by certain kinds of landscape that are very large, very impressive and dangerous. Places like the wide-open oceans, the high mountains ... It's interesting that around the end of the 18th century, people started to say that the feeling that these places provoke in us is a recognizable one and universal one—and a good one. This feeling was described as the feeling of the sublime ... What lies at the center of the experience is a feeling of smallness. You are very small and something else is very big and dangerous. You are very vulnerable in the face of something else. Of course, the other thing that tends to make you feel very small and vulnerable is God, traditionally, in our culture. There is an intriguing synchronicity between the rise of the idea of the sublime and the decline of organized religion. The way many people speak of landscape as of the late 18th century is often in quasi-religious tones or actively religious tones. So if one thinks about people like Thomas Cole going out and painting the American West what they are saying and seeing is the hand of God in Nature.

Lots of good reading to be had here.



posted by Michael at November 25, 2002


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