On Radiohead, the Purpose of Fiction and Philosophy of Art, a Conversation with an Internet Stranger
I've met Kendon while hating on LeBron James for whatever reason on Twitter sometime this winter. I didn't even know his name was Kendon then. We ended up dropping the insults because 1) His ball club was clearly better than mine and 2) He started reading my reviews for some reason. I've always wanted to start an art debate with an internet stranger, but since most of them are reluctant to share more than 140 characters at the time with you, it proved to be rather difficult. Kendon was up for the challenge though and this is what we've talked about for two weeks via email. I hope you like it!
Ben: So I don't really know you. I know that 1) you're a writer 2) you like basketball and 3) you're into Radiohead. I've reviewed their latest album here a couple weeks ago and happened to kind of like it. Given that I fiercely loathe everything that came between Kid A and The King of Limbs (but especially Kid A), why do you think I liked A Moon Shaped Pool What do you think is going on with Radiohead's creative process?
Kendon: I'm not going to pretend I know what's going on in your crazy Kid A-hating head. How can one understand the machinations of a mad man, right? However, I do think it's no surprise that the three Radiohead albums you like the trio of The Bends, OK Computer and A Moon Shaped Pool.
Radiohead started to find their mature sound on The Bends, and that sound became actualized with OK Computer. OK Computer was the quintessential Radiohead album. It was the blueprint, and all subsequent albums derived their sound from there. Together, those two albums represent maybe the deepest well of what Radiohead was and is and will ever be. The band has never done anything that wasn't an evolution of the template they cultivated on those albums, and it's unrealistic to expect they ever will.
Now, the band could have taken several evolutionary paths once they developed that sound. Your issue is that they took an aspect of their sound you seem to like the least, and they ran with it for five straight albums. If you don't like the aspect of the sound they cultivated for the majority of their catalog, you're just not going to like it.
And I won't get into what exactly that sound is right now because, honestly, I do want to hear what you have to say about it. I've read the article you wrote about that in preparation for this. It was a good piece of intellectual analysis, but I'm not sure if I have a better idea of why you don't like that particular sound from an emotional perspective. You seem to dislike it from your gut with your every being. You've said it's everything that's wrong with music!
That's a long way to get to why you liked A Moon Shaped Pool, I know, but I think you liked that album because it comes from a different part of Radiohead. They've done soft and creepy since OK Computer, but they haven't done soft and creepy AND human. They doubled down on technological and societal paranoia for so long. Now they've come back to a softer, prettier version of themselves we last saw on Bends and OK Computer.
It feels simpler than their mature catalog, but that's not quite true. It's very layered. It just took out the parts I think you would call bleep-bloop satellite bullshit and replaced it with organic sounds. I think it's that aspect of the real that appeals to you. How close am I?
Ben: Human is key, yes. It's not a complete answer, but complete answers elude me and for the sake of the audience, we should segue from Radiohead and the blippity-boops of societal paranoia. A Moon Shaped Pool is human both lyrically and sonically, I think. It's still very much a minimalist album, but the brittle, organic texture have something very vulnerable to them, I find. I don't know about you, buddy, but I need "human" in order to appreciate art. I need an artist to be more selfless than I am and build a bridge so I can relate. I say that and I like bands like Last Days of Humanity and Cock N' Ball Torture mainly because they're opposite of that. It's a music that's passed violent. It's just inhuman and monstrous. It's the entire point of it.
Maybe I'm just a caveman who can't appreciate sophistication. Maybe I'm just an asshole too. See, this is the kind of insecurities I live with that make me need art to exist. I think I've been called an asshole by everybody I've ever known at least once in my life. Except you. But I don't really know you, so it might happen at some point. So that brings me to a question I've always wanted to ask a random stranger that seems to be into art as much as I am: what do you tell people who say fiction (read/written/watched) is a waste of time. I have a pretty elaborate answer to that, but I'm curious to hear yours.
Kendon: Listen, asshole. I love that question, and I'll give you my literal answer first. I don't respond to them. I've never known how to respond -- not because I don't have an argument in favor of fiction but because I don't know how to reason with someone who thinks fiction is useless.
My father-in-law is one of those people, which is funny because he loves music. He appreciates art. Hell, he's a former hippie who has done what I'll describe as "all" the drugs. He should not be one of those people, and yet he will invariably denounce fiction as a waste of time and insist we put on "something smart" if we've wasted too much time watching fictional television. I never know what to say to him, and that's only partially because he's my father-in-law.
People who think fiction is a waste of time only value fact-based truths, but fact-based truths are limited in thought and meaning and scope. I'm not sure how much I can learn reading a biography of JFK. That's an assembly of facts about a person, but I can't say it means anything outside it being true. It may be interesting, and surely history and facts are worth learning as a utility.
The beautiful thing about fiction, though, is it has the ability to say anything. And if something has the ability to say anything, it also has the ability to teach us anything. As humans, we are capable of abstract thought and analysis. That's our biggest advantage over all other creatures on this planet. When I read nonfiction, I do not use abstract thought very often. It doesn't engage my mind to question who I am or what I believe, but fiction does.
We're both writers, and I have to imagine that more personal truth goes into our little works of fiction than anything else we write. Maybe I shouldn't speak for you, but I know that's the case with me. I've never written an essay or opinion piece that quite captures my world view and thoughts and fears and joy the way fiction can. And I've never read an essay or opinion piece that challenges those world views the way some of the fiction I've read does.
I wonder if you ask me this to reiterate your point about humanity in works of art. Somehow, I find more humanity in a work of fiction than I do in most of the nonfiction work I've read. The way I can't connect with biographies in the same way I connect with novels probably isn't too dissimilar to the way you can connect with A Moon Shaped Pool (or other human works of art) but not Kid A. I do find that somewhat strange coming from you, a person who likes a genre of art (horror/speculative fiction) that often delves into the inhuman.
Ben: Funny, one of my early girlfriend's dad was an ex-hippie too. He was boring, though. Worked in a bank, Walter-White-I've-given-up-on-life type with a tyrannical wife. There was only one bathroom upstairs in his house, so one night I go up to take a leak and find him painting a gigantic naked, bloody woman on his living room wall. When he noticed me, he started screeching like a feral cat. I fucking hauled ass downstairs and tried to wake up my girlfriend. She mumbled something about LSD flashbacks. The next day, every time I tried bringing up the giant naked woman on the wall, my girlfriend would kick me in the shin under the table.
I have no idea what this means, but I think about it a lot. She has a kid with another bank employee today. Not sure if ithere's a pattern there.
Anyway, I agree with your assessment of what the purpose of fiction is. I might just add that it has for purpose to answer questions that aren't answerable with science, philosophy or common wisdom. Having access to fictional selves enriches your own perspective on pretty much everything you read about. Take The Wire, for example. Showed the crime epidemic in Baltimore is much more complicated than the cowboys and robbers portrait it's been painted as. That the system is rigged against the lower social classes. There was no way of getting people viscerally interested in this question other than with fiction because where the fuck can you find eloquent and lovable gangbangers? The Wire could've been a documentary, but it would never had been any more successful than the million documentaries made on the subject over the last 100 years. The fictional selves of David Simon were key.
Now that was a free swipe you've taken with Kid A. I can respect that, bro. Really, I can. I'm just not going to. Have you ever seen a Michael Snow movie? He's an experimental movie director from Canada and he shot a movie about a leaky faucet once. It's only twelve minutes, but it's twelve unbearable fucking minutes. Now, may that say whatever it needs to say about time and the ephemeral nature of everything, but....where was I going with this? Fuck, I don't remember. I was going to trace a parallel between Snow and Radiohead, but I forgot what it was about. I mean. I don't need Thom Yorke to tell me everything is in its right place for 7 fucking minutes. I know. I'm OCD too and I don't need a song to help me give in to my compulsiveness, you know?
Kendon: I also think that your girlfriend has a kid with another bank employee means a lot. It always weirds me out when someone marries someone very similar to their parents unless that person is a lot like they're parents as well. I happened to marry someone who is the exact opposite of my mother, and I feel pretty good knowing I didn't start a family with another version of my own mom. That would be sick.
As far as your feelings about Kid A go, I can respect that. Fact is, art is so incredibly subjective. For as much as I like to chide other people for thinking differently than I do about certain art, I'm mostly putting on when I do that. There's no definitive way to say what is good art and bad art. Art doesn't exist in an objective reality.
So when you say Kid A wears on you in the way literally watching a leaky faucet wears on you, that's fine. I'm going to poke fun at you for it, but that doesn't actually make me correct for loving that album. It just makes me a person whose sensibilities predisposes himself to enjoying that album. That's not really anything for me to brag about, really. That would be almost like bragging about my sexuality. Certain things aren't wrong or right. We're just born with certain attractions whether they be sexual attractions or artistic leanings. There's no way I can logic my way into liking music I hate the same way I can't logic my way into being attracted to other men.
However, there IS a flip-side to this. I can objectively figure out why another person might like a piece of art even when I don't. I can understand certain redeeming qualities even if it doesn't make me like the work any better. It's something you've done with that Snow movie. You understand the point of watching twelve minutes of a leaky faucet. In a way, you have a certain appreciation for it. It's like a form of artistic empathy.
And I suppose that's my issue with people who call fiction useless. They're discounting the merit of an entire form of art just because it's not something they like. That kind of thinking is dangerous, and I don't know if I trust someone who thinks in that way. It's like a non-dangerous form of racism or homophobia. I find it very weird for someone to dislike an entire art-form so much, he declares it as useless. That comes off as so small-minded.
Sometimes, I tend to be guilty of the opposite to a fault, and I wonder if you are the same with this. As you're well aware, I'm very much into music and even, occasionally, write about it to get show tickets and albums for free. This last year, many of the writers at the site where I write about music were obsessed with the latest Grimes record. Just absolutely obsessed with the thing.
Me? I thought "California" was a good song, and the rest of it was a mix of interesting production ideas and super annoying, grating song writing. But these other music writers had me thrown. How can so many people who love music also love this album when I think it's terrible? I kept trying over and over to listen to it and enjoy it like they did, and every time, I hated it more and more. No amount of wanting to like it could make me like it. Not for the life of me.
It seems like this is what caused you to try to go back and enjoy the Radiohead albums you just couldn't enjoy, but I also wonder if this is a common issue for you. I know you like other Radiohead albums, so I can see it being band-specific.
I have that issue with "Hold Steady" where a lot of people love "Almost Killed Me" and I find it repetitive and annoying. I almost feel better about hating an album from a band I love than not getting an album from a band I don't love. If I hate the album from a band I love, it feels like its the band's fault. If I can't get into the entire work of a band other people love, maybe that's more about me.
Ben: But is art really THAT subjective? Isn't there good and bad art? I feel like whenever people are about to fight about a piece of art, or that one side is losing the argument, everyone throws their hands in the air and says: "fuck this shit, art is subjective anyway. You can like whatever you like." It's not necessarily false, but it's a little convenient, don't you think?
Take Nicholas Sparks for example. He's been writing what is essentially the same romance novel since 1996. It delivers the same fucking message every time: you are special and there's a special someone sexy and pure waiting for you. Now, I'll admit that it is art and that it has a purpose. It's supposed to make you feel hopeful about life and your own romantic relationships. But doesn't the very idea of rewriting a novel with the same message every year hurt the very message itself by turning it into a commodity? Cultural critic Walter Benjamin once said: "Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be." Now let me ask you this question: would we perceive Nicholas Sparks differently if he died or stopped writing for whatever reason after the publication of The Notebook? I like to think so.
I believe there are two levels of art: art-for-the-sake-of-art and art-as-entertainment. At some point in his writing career, Nicholas Sparks told himself: "this is great. I'm going to ride that wave of success into the sunset," and bless him for that. He is a very successful man, but he's forsaken the idea of shocking people and expand their horizons because this is what art is all about, is it? If artists like Kurt Cobain and David Foster Wallace for example keep such a haunting aura long after their death, it's because they were extremely self-aware about the idea of giving their audience something entirely new. Conspiracy theorists would say it got the best of them too.
I feel like a petulant trust-fund kid throwing this out there and I don't see any way it can turn into my favor, but I think it's a difficult discussion that nobody wants to start. Art is a business of relationships and people are seeking different kinds of arts in order to provide to specific needs they have. Now, it's your entire freedom to feel you should use art to try and challenge yourself or simply to spend time, but each work of art is whispering something in your ear and it's not always nice or helpful.
Does it make sense or am I just an entitled little bitch?
Kendon: See, I've spent most of my life feeling exactly like you feel, and at a gut level, I still do. I want art to be more. I want to challenge myself even when I know I'm not going to like the thing I'm about to read or hear or watch.
A recent example is a book you recommended both on this site and over DMs. You loved the Blake Butler and Sean Kilpatrick novella Anatomy Courses. I won't get into why exactly you loved it because, hey, your audience can and should read the review. From an intellectual standpoint, I went into this thing highly interested but pretty sure I wasn't going to love it the way you do. But like you said, part of the point of art, at least in how I enjoy it, is that it pushes something forward -- whether inside me or as an art-form itself.
And guess what? I'm about 90% through the book, and it's almost exactly how I expected. Reading it is closer to an intellectual exercise than something I actually enjoy doing. I think I get it at least on some minimal level and at least as far as Butler and Kilpatrick expect or want normal-ass people to get it. Mostly, I appreciate what it's doing even if it's not for me.
So as far as the way I actually live my life goes, I'm right with you even if I'm living in opposition of that thing I know to be true -- that art is subjective. Here, I'm going to undercut my own original argument when I mention that Grimes album I couldn't enjoy for the life of me. At the time and still, I take every opportunity to let the writers at that music know how much I hate that album and think it's terrible. We have had some ugly, petty fights over this album. I've said and still believe that I think in ten years, people who love that album now are going to look back on it and be embarrassed they ever thought it was good. I said it's embarrassing.
It isn't until I take a step back that I can say and believe that art is subjective because when I'm really in the moment of thinking about one particular piece, I let my personal tastes and feelings overtake me. I think that's more proof than anything that art really is subjective. We can create stringent rubrics for what constitutes great art, but that's total bullshit and what's considered great art now might have been laughed away two hundred years ago and vice-versa.
That's subjective art at the highest level, but you seem to have an ax to grind against art that is, perhaps, too easy to enjoy. Or something that isn't personally challenging in some way. I'm not sure if either of us have the right to say art that is too pleasant or safe isn't as valid as art that is challenging on some level. It can be easier to write something that is pleasant than something that is difficult. There's a level of craft there that isn't easy, and maybe you would draw the difference there between an artisan and artist, but you could ask a hundred people and get a hundred different answers as to where they would draw the line between those classifications and which supposed artists would go into each categories.
Not to retread conversations we've already had, but this reminds me of when I took issue with an answer in your Blake Butler interview where he called plot boring. To go to an absolute extreme, writing plot is somewhat about craft. Plot feels finite in possibilities. You yourself and Butler himself both said that every plot is basically the same. I disagreed about plot being boring because it is the mechanism that delivers what any book is really about. I also thought it was impossible to write a book without plot, but Anatomy Courses may have done it, so what do I know?
Ben: Now, I don't have an axe to grind about Nicholas Sparks or Marvel Comics or whatever. That's the misconception people always get when I talk about qualifying art and that's why I usually never talk about it. I don't want every artistic piece to be avant garde, it would devaluate and denature avant garde literature/film like crazy. Not to mention that suit-wearing marketing majors would start trying to sell avant garde to everybody. As much as I like Blake Butler's fiction myself, I can't read too much of it at the time. It's like surfing a big wave, you know? It's exhausting and terrifying but it's always better in hindsight.
I suppose my problem is with criticism. It's an exercise perceived as pedantic and judgmental if practiced outside of the confines dictated by companies such as Amazon, Goodreads, Yelp, Facebook, etc. Questioning and evaluating what you're being sold is perceived as placing yourself above it, which I believe is a fucking travesty. I don't read Marvel Comics, but I see the appeal of it. I liked the first Avengers movie. Could a greedy Hollywood studio churn a mediocre superhero movie that rides the concept of "loyalty to the original material" into oblivion? Of fucking course it can. It happened several times already.
I would like people to understand when they're being sold a piece of shit instead of seamlessly fusing with it. It might seem unimportant, but entertaining ourselves is the main thing we do as a society outside of working and therefore your opinion on blockbuster films is more valuable to your own life than your opinion on the war in Syria. I don't mean that the war in Syria is non-important because it's about the most morally complex clusterfuck there's ever been, but bagging on it from behind your keyboard is not going to solve shit. On the other hand, growing a critical appreciation of what you're being sold by corporate studios and publishers WILL have an effect on the quality of what you're watching. No, you will not enjoy your entertainment less, but maybe you'll skip a Nicholas Sparks novel if the previous one was uninspired and force him to come up with different ideas. Maybe you'll choose which superhero to invest time and money on instead of blinding picking whatever's at the theater now.
See my point? People perceive their entertainment as the part of freedom in their lives yet exert no freedom over it and it pisses me off.
Kendon: I certainly see your point, and I agree that taking a stance on entertainment you believe to be good or bad is important for the reasons you have listed. Where I disagree is the notion that your opinion on Nicholas Sparks or Marvel Comics matters. Or my opinion, for that matter. Our opinions just don't matter for those two things and many others.
It's both the pleasure and curse of culture right now that the art available to us is so niche. We live beyond an era of simply asking if a piece of art is good or bad. It's not so simple as that for the mere fact that every type of art is available to fit the preference of every conceivable taste. There's not much of a point for me to give my opinion on a Nicholas Sparks novel. If there is a point, it's the tiniest point and pretty much close to useless.
My opinion on Sparks doesn't matter because I'm predisposed to dislike his novels. I could not begin to comment on whether one of his novels is better than another or better than another novel in the romance genre because it's over 99% likely that I will hate anything in that genre. A fan of romance should not ever listen to my opinion on a romance novel. Likewise, I shouldn't listen to the opinions of someone who loves romance but hates dark fiction and horror.
The idea of what is good and what is bad doesn't matter as a universal constraint. What matters is what someone with similar tastes to yours thinks about a thing. I care about what you say about literature and movies because I know we have a similar taste in literature and movies. If you recommend something that may be outside my normal comfort zone, I'm going to trust that because, for the most part, we have the same tastes in those things. I haven't decided yet if I trust your taste in music, though. I'll need to gather more data before I can gauge how much to care about your music recommendations.
When I was in college, I used to work with this slightly older lady who was high school English teacher. She told me she was writing a romance novel, and like the dick I was at that age, I made fun of her for that. She was undeterred and confident about it, though. She told me that writing a romance novel isn't as easy as slapping together a bunch of steamy scenes. There's a form to it. You and I would probably consider that formulaic, but to a romance fan, it's like writing a sonnet. There are certain rules, and part of the challenge is coming up with something beautiful or interesting within those rules. Sometimes a form breeds the most creativity because it challenges a person to come up with ingenious ways to express thoughts within a constraint. Sometimes a form is too restricting, but a form in and of itself does not mean easy or less artful.
I don't know the form of a romance novel. I've never read a romance novel. I have no idea what a romance novel is like. I don't know the form of a sonnet either, and I don't give a shit to learn. These things don't interest me, but that doesn't make them less valid either. They're just not valid specifically to me and people like me.
The same way I might look down on romance novels, plenty of other people look down on horror, which I just adore. I can't say they are wrong for having inherent dislikes for the horror genre. Even within the broad genre of horror, likes and dislikes splinter based on personal taste. I prefer slow build, creepy horror over all other kinds. Some people hate that and say it's boring. They'll always hate that. They'll always say it's boring.
The idea that people aren't more vocal in a way that shapes entertainment for the better also pisses me off, but I'm not sure if it's a problem that exists. Are people really paying for entertainment they don't like? If I had to guess, in most cases they aren't. In most cases, most of society would hate the art I love the most. I'm amazed when something like Radiohead is massively popular. I grew up at the tail end of an era where people with taste like my own would hate anything for being popular regardless of the content.
I wish people had taste more like my own so more stuff that I like got made and fewer things I don't like got made, but who is anybody to decide for the masses what is good and bad? In my case, a genius, obviously, but this isn't science. There are no facts. We are all just a bunch of people with a bunch of different tastes in art, and some of us have decided our tastes are better than the masses instead of accepting the fact that taste is particular to each individual.
I'm guilty of it. I think I have the best taste in the world. People exist who love classical music that would disagree with my taste in music, saying it's not real music at all. People exist who study certain types and eras of literature who may say that horror is nothing but trash and all essentially the same. I think they're pompous and full of themselves, but if I level that accusation against them, I can't turn around and make comments about Nicholas Sparks and Nora Roberts.
Ben: Nicholas Sparks and Marvel Comics are merely examples of the point I'm trying to make. If you want one that I genuinely care about, I've seen Hitman: Agent 47 last night and it was fucking stupid. I've watched it because I really like actor Rupert Friend and was fresh off season 4 of Homeland and what I got was a lazy, mutated and deliriously delusional spin off a decent video games mixed with subtle allusions to the show. I love Rupert Friend. I like the Hitman video games enough. Yet, this was complete fucking garbage and I'm happy I didn't shed a cent for it.
My problem is not that people "like garbage entertainment". You are projecting negative feelings over my statement, but then again, you're not the only one. Everybody before you did. My problem is that people settle for what they're offered and sometimes, what they're offered doesn't have their best interest in mind. Sometimes, it's meant just to grab your cash (i.e a yearly/bi-yearly novel) or just to call you stupid, like Hitman: Agent 47: "Hey, look at our sexy couple of super humans.slaughtering people for 90 minutes for vague reasons."
I like romance. I don't read it, but I want it to succeed. Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmond Rostand is one of my favorite works of art and it's a bona fide romance. It just really assumes what it wants to be and doesn't try to foster lonely women's need for something they'll never have. It blows up everything that's life-affirming about being love x1000 its own size. There's a definite place for romance in society as well as for superheroes. They just are two genres settling for the lowest common denominator because they are easy sells and prey on two important needs: being loved and feeling special.
I'm sure your colleague's novel was awesome because it was a labor of love that stemmed from true feelings she had. Get in the criticism game for long enough and you'll be able to recognize writing that is loved from writing that is mass produced. I just want all writing to be loved by its own creator. I don't want any genres to die off because they're petty or anything. I want quality in everything.
Is that clearer?
Kendon: I just don't think most people want the things either of us want. They don't want the things that your readers probably want. I've been dancing around it because saying it is a good way to make people hate me, but people are stupid. It's easy to forget. I don't spend a lot of time interacting with regular people, but man, are they dumb.
I'm not projecting negative feelings onto you. Really, it's not my intent. If anything, you are optimistic, which is a commendable trait. You think people are better than they are, and you expect them to be better than they are. Maybe it's a referendum on me, but I think most people are trash and I expect them to like stuff that I consider trash. I expect them to dislike things I consider not-trash. They want to consume cash grabs. If they didn't want that, they'd stop seeing them and raving about how much they loved those cash grabs. And they do rave about how much they like these things. Just a few months ago, my dad called Big Bang Theory a "smart comedy." Holy shit, right?
Your last point reminds me of these universities that offer creative writing MFAs that specifically teach students how to write in a way that makes money. You pick one of the main money-making genres (I've seen: romance, horror, mystery, sci-fi and fantasy but there may be others), and they teach you the form and what to do to get published. I don't know how I feel about that.
On one hand, just like you, I suspect, I would love to be a rich and famous novelist. Just like thousands of talented and untalented and moderately talented people. I often doubt myself not because I think my writing is bad but because I do things I'm fairly certain work against them ever getting published. If these things will never get published without mainstreaming the in the way that MFA would teach, is it worth it to change the writing? I mean that as a general question about any writer pondering about making concessions.
On the other hand, it goes back to what your issue is between cash grabs and labors of love. How much can a writer change just to get published until it stops being that labor of love and becomes another cash grab? I know getting published can often be a period of compromise, but sometimes what a writer might be asked to compromise could be what makes the work special to that person in the first place. I can imagine someone getting jaded at that notion and start to care more about cash grabbing than making art. And who can blame someone for doing that? Especially if the average person likes the cash grab more than more complicated art.
And as my own compromise to your point, I kind of wonder what would happen if publishers across all mediums only published the works we would consider high art. Would the masses adjust and begin to appreciate more difficult art just because it's the only art there is? I guess I think they would adjust because this form of entertainment is better than no entertainment at all.
Then again, in another concession to your point, Nicholas Sparks is big enough that he can have anything published at any time. If he wants to write something better, he could at least try, and it would get published and that would help. So maybe you're right that someone like Sparks could try to be better, but I'm conflicted because people really, really like their cash grab bad superhero movies and who am I to tell them they shouldn't have them.
Ben: I feel like we're diving in a rabbit hole here. This has escalated into a conversation about philosophy of art kind of quickly and it's about to get worse: I believe the desire to write commercial art for a living was born out of the idea that your life can only be truly fulfilling if your passion is your job. This is horseshit. If you require to do what you love the most to eat, you will have to make compromise to make money and you will end up not loving it anymore. It will become a source of stress. Did you know that William Faulkner worked in a post office? So did Charles Bukowski? Plenty of the most accomplished, uncompromising authors have had day jobs. It helps keeping an economic/creative freedom. I have a day job that I love, but it what's I do outside of business hours that defines me, you know?
I also want to point that I don't share your pessimism regarding people in general. I don't think people are trash, just that they're apathetic and that they've forsaken the idea that they can ever change things. I mean, look at television. When The Sopranos and The Wire became huge hits, it created a demand for quality writing. Shows like Breaking Bad, Justified and Homeland would've never seen the light of day of people didn't vote with their time and money on this. Entertainment is widely perceived as unimportant stuff, but I think it's the opposite. We spend the majority of our time either working or entertaining ourselves, so our job and our hobbies are the two major forces that define us, so it's important we treat them with the scrutiny they need in order to improve. But I'll give you that people have a problem with taking responsibility for their lives.
So, we're going to need to wrap this up eventually if we eventually want to have people reading it. Anything else you want to talk about? Any question that would make me look smart?
Kendon: This is the perfect place to wrap things up if for no other reason than that I do not disagree with what you say here, and that may be a first for this two week-long conversation.
I have a day job, too, that is very different from any of my passions. It helps keep me passionate about those things, and I don't let it define me. My biggest advice to anyone going to college is that you don't need an English degree to be a failed writer. Get a degree that will let you get a lucrative job you can enjoy so you can fund the things you really love. Your job doesn't need to be who you are, and people aren't just lists of the things they do or like.
I think a lot of our disagreement steams from our fundamental beliefs about people in this world. You expect more from people, and I expect worse than nothing. I'm not a pessimistic person in general. I just don't have the faith in my fellow humans that you have, and I can't imagine any way that's going to change even if I did want to feel better about people. That doesn't mean you're wrong about scrutiny when and where people are able.
As for last questions, I don't know. How about something totally off-topic? A Moon Shaped Pool seems to be the first Radiohead album you've enjoyed in nearly twenty years. Does it make you excited, interested, whatever for their next album?
Ben: No. But I'll give a spin to their future recordings for sure. I'm still far from being excited for whatever they can come up with. Thanks for doing this, Kendon. It was fun. Good luck for whatever it is that you do!