The Effects of Great Art on Ordinary Life

Kevin Hartnett has a thoughtful burst of an essay over at The Millions. Blogging something posted to the internet one month ago is a crime in somebody’s book I’m sure, but it ends with such a lovely quote that I couldn’t resist. We’ll get to that in a minute. Hartnett wrote the essay after finishing Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

…just as it takes specialized knowledge to understand exactly why a magnet attracts metal, yet any five-year-old can identify a magnet when he sees one, it is one thing to apprehend the formal properties of a great work of art, but another, much more accessible question, to assess its effects.  And so, having recently finished reading War and Peace, what I want to think about is just what it is that great art does.

If you want to see what he came up with, read the essay. What will hang with me for awhile is the last line in the piece. Here it is, do with it as you see fit:

An encounter with greatness, I would say, is like a bright light fixed in time, a marker that defines memory and makes it clearer than it otherwise might have been, that we were here.

(Thanks, Bookforum.)

Source: The Millions

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