Tuesday, October 20, 2009

27. Fran Healy, literary critic

I turn attention to the topmost drawing of the post, the one of the young woman sitting on the stool with her arms folded. A friend and I were looking through the series of these drawings a few weeks ago. When we came to this one, she blurted out, “Oh, I don’t like that one.”

It was an instinctive response, which I accepted as such, and appreciate, if only because it functions as a reminder of the viewer’s (or reader's) privilege to like or dislike your offering solely on the basis of whether they find the subject matter appealing. In this instance, based upon my knowledge of my companion and the speed of her response, I assume her aversion was to the model’s attitude – wary, distrustful, defensive, judgmental.
In my mind, of course, these are all the things that make the drawing a pretty good one. The legs are a little off, but as far as the upper half is concerned, the clarity and the nuance of the attitude being expressed is pretty well-rendered, from the posture right down to the eye. Yet I am bound to accept that it is precisely this, the evident content of my depiction, which caused my friend to react so negatively, and that she had every right to that opinion.

I’m always reminded of an exchange that took place between New York Mets announcer Fran Healy and Ralph Kiner during an apparently slow game about fifteen or twenty years ago. Maybe it was a rain delay, but they were talking about the movie The Natural, and Fran Healy was saying what a good swing Robert Redford had, especially for an actor. Kiner said, “Yeah, and you know, The Natural wasn’t just a movie. It was based on a book.” Healy, whose charm consists in his embrace of the fact that he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer – said, “Oh, really?” Kiner said, “Yeah, but you know in the book, the Robert Redford character doesn’t hit that home run in the end. He strikes out.” There was a long pause, at the end of which Healy finally said, “…Boy, I would hate that book.’

As a younger man, a younger writer, I think I’d have taken Fran Healy’s crit to be the purest extract of philistinism, that nothing could be more crude or brutish than basing one’s appreciation of a book on whether the hero hits a home run or strikes out in the end. As I have matured – or let’s just say aged – I’ve come round to seeing that this is completely legitimate response. Maybe not my own, but certainly not dismissable. One has to take responsibility for all of one’s choices, after all, including what happens at the end.

Be that as it may, I stand by the drawing.

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