Eisenstaedt, Children at a Puppet Show, Paris, 1963
In a world where nearly everything that passes for art is tinny and commercial and often, in addition, hollow and academic, I argue -- by reason and by banging the table -- for an old-fashioned view of what art is and does and what the fundamental business of critics ought therefore to be. Not that I want joy taken out of the arts; but even frothy entertainment is not harmed by a touch of moral responsibility, at least an evasion of too fashionable simplifications.
We need to stop excusing mediocre and downright pernicious art, stop "taking it for what it’s worth" as we take our fast foods, our overpriced cars that are no good, the overpriced houses we spend all our lives fixing, our television programs, our schools thrown up like barricades in the way of young minds, our brainless fat religions, our poisonous air, our incredible cult of sports, and our ritual of fornicating with all pretty or even horse-faced strangers. We would not put up with a debauched king, but in a democracy all of us are kings, and we praise debauchery as pluralism.
John C. Gardner