Friday, September 7, 2012

Why Read When We Can Daydream?


If I ever had to furnish a gallery in a movie, I would paste the walls with framed Rorschach ink blotches. A representation of abstract paintings, it would be a memorial to our generation’s view of modern work.

The art world has turned to enigma, allowing the audience to decide what the work is about. From abstract art to experimental theatre, it is often hard to get a straight answer out of the creator on what they meant. When I ask, I’ve been told that their concept was “about what I want it to be about,” and was to make me feel, “the way I felt.”

“You wanted me to need to pee?” I would say.

For skeptics like me, it seems to be an excuse. These pieces can’t be criticized because they are supposed to be weird and because the artist’s target stretches the size of a barn. Worse even, because if they don’t hit the building and flop in the dirt, they can just claim that’s what they wanted to happen. The critics of this “being weird for the sake of being weird” trend agree that this is usually a copout.

A common enough problem in first drafts is indecision. It is typical for the writers to keep from making concrete details because a) concrete details remove freedom and b) being decisive is hard. So questions are left unanswered with the excuse of having an “open ending.” Scenes deliver as little of information as possible. Conversations seem to be, and are, about nothing. The setting is only developed as far as the room that the characters are in. And when left with the feeling of “and your point?” the only answer you get is “there doesn’t have to be a point.”

There doesn’t have to be anything in art. Beauty has no rules, and art doesn’t even have to be beautiful. That’s the problem. People try to make rules and regulations, ways to understand what is good and what is not, but at the end of the day no such things exists.

How my life is complicated by this is when someone gives me a work they want to make “better,” but then believes any emotion is a good emotion, and that the basic expectations of a story need to be broken to be stylized. If we remove meaning, goals, intended audience/reader’s reception, and any commonly agreed upon literary rules, then how the hell am I supposed to critique anything?

Now I’m not a person to respect the rules or disrespect those who don’t pander to expectations. But I am a person who has been trying to get where I want to be and achieve the quality I want to realize, and I have to say that over the years everyone who has been a member of the Anything Goes party have been the least beneficial in improving anything.

Trying to know what to change and what to keep is hard for even those of us who aren’t trying to break every single expectation set down.

I have never liked this, “there doesn’t have to be a point,” style, I’ve never wanted to write like that, and quite frankly, I never want to read things like that. It is really frustrating to get through the entirety of a play to find the ending to contradict everything it said and not answer any of the mysteries it used to get your attention.

So here’s my argument against all these vague, foggy, all-meaning, means nothing scripts. Why do we read a book when we can just daydream?

Fiction is fantasy. It is the author’s fantasy over the reader’s fantasy, leading the reader to have chosen to someone else’s concrete dream over their own open one. He could just think there for himself. So the question that can benefit us is why do people read instead of daydream? Or, even still, why do people read, period?

This question has many answers, but I’m going to talk about one.

It is about the tangibility of the fantasy. Daydreams are flighty, foggy, and require the mental power of the dreamer to keep pushing them forward. Books are concrete, manipulative, and more substantial. There is a place for both, but we want something different out of each. Even when we read a book to fuel our daydreams, we are still looking for something specific enough to inspire us and push us forward. We read to get ideas, to enjoy ideas, and to that other people have the same ideas and feelings as the rest of us. I want to see other people’s thoughts, opinions, and passions. If I wanted to think what I think and feel what I feel, I could do that staring at a wall, an activity that a play would only distract from.

There is a reason why people prefer paintings to ink blotches. Looking at clouds are fun, but you can only do that for a while. Though we pretend that we don’t like talking to others except to have someone listen to us, the truth is that people like people. We appreciate characters and lives that are not our own, and we read to escape to a new world. If we don’t believe in that world because it’s not concrete enough, then we will find another one to look to.