“The distinction between literary and genre fictions (mysteries, westerns, fantasy, and sci.fi.) is largely an artificial one. Those who still insist on making anachronistic literary distinctions do it for the same reason that all snobs make such declarations, self-aggrandizing assholery. The only distinctions that can legitimately be made in literature are between good writing and bad writing and good stories and bad stories. When a work of fiction takes hold of your imagination, when the language continually invites you to turn pages the writer has done his or her job. When the book haunts you and you can remember it years and years later, the writer has written a masterpiece.” - Mark Hinton, Montana Writer
Perhaps some of you are familiar with this scenario: You’re at a party, or a gathering of some sort that is primarily attended by artists or connoisseurs. Most people hanging around you are young, perhaps twenty to thirty-something, mostly educated, mostly talking bullshit, really but sooner or later you get pulled into a conversation about music, or literature or art. Someone asks you who “you’re into” and you tell them and you watch their faces change because it’s something that they don’t admire themselves. You watch their instant judgment of you based upon your esthetic choices or preferences. Right at that moment, you are defined. Forget all the nuances that make you a complete human being. You are now defined and labeled based on a book, or a piece of music, or a particular film or director you said you really liked. Welcome to the world of pseudo-hipster bullshit, and God only knows how often I, myself, have been in these situations. The good thing is I never gave a shit. I’m comfortable with who I am and care not about what others think of my esthetic choices and if you want to judge me as a human being based on them, go right ahead. The question you really have to ask is what makes you think that I care? I’m too old to care anymore, anyway. But there are some who, sadly, combust, begin doubting their own self-worth and will bend over backward and contort in order to win approval from those they feel are “important people.” A very sad way to live, in my opinion; and as ridiculous as all this appears to be, I have seen it happen with my own eyes - and it has happened to me on occasion. A lot of the time, it’s some poor sap who wants to get the “hip” girl and this is what happened to them. Crushed, humiliated, embarrassed and judged - essentially over a triviality.
I’ve seen a lot of this kind of thing when I was in my early thirties - a time when I spent a lot of evenings attending loft parties in Brooklyn, hosted by artist friends of mine who used the occasion to promote their work, the work of their friends and of course, to try to get laid by meeting all the women who attended these soirees. At the time, I was going through a very rough period and spent most of these evenings completely legless due to a massive consumption of alcohol. I wasn’t much use to anyone, really and looking back at it, most of it seems like a blur. I’ve met a hell of a lot of people - mostly artists of some kind - most of whom I can’t remember talking to or what we were even talking about. But I do remember these occasional instances when this sort of thing happened to my friends and on occasion to myself. They were designed, by those who truly have their own issues to contend with, to make someone else feel like shit in order to make themselves feel better about themselves. I get it. I know the psychology - and nothing grinds another’s gears more than when you show them that you simply don’t give a shit and you’re comfortable in your own skin.
I walked away from all that long ago, preferring the company of my real friends, those who know me, those who actually care, those who would never think of making others feel like shit in order to pacify some sort of hole they have inside themselves. And the thing is, most of them aren’t artists. Some are - painters, musicians, writers - but the overwhelming majority of them have other professions and to be honest, never really talk to me about my writing. Our friendships are not based on things like this. They’re based on being human beings, as it should be. We sometimes discuss books, music, films and quite often we don’t agree. For instance, I love Bob Dylan and Ernest Hemingway - two figures that have influenced me greatly. They don’t. While I may not understand why Dylan and Hemingway may not connect with them, I certainly don’t use it as a yardstick to judge them as human beings and try to make them feel like shit for it. People are who they are. You either accept them for who they are or you don't.
But this is what happens among the so-called “hip” set, or at least it did then. I’m sure it still happens. I’m sure there are young people out there, going to the parties in all the “cool neighborhoods” that are being attended by all the struggling artists, musicians and women that they desire, putting up fronts in order to “fit in.” Peer pressure shit. High school crap. Whether it be your esthetic choices or what neighborhood you live in, everyone is under a microscope. It reminds me of a low-rent version of sophisticated cocktail parties. Everything you say, do, or respond to is judged, filed away and remembered and your conversations with other human beings are more like questionnaires, as if you’re one of those sad contestants on a reality show, waiting for the dramatic pause to end to see whether or not you’ll be voted off the island. Such shit, all of this, and sad being that it comes from supposed adults. But yet some will twist themselves into a pretzel in order to impress these self-aggrandizing assholes, these children who think becoming their friend is a favor they are bestowing upon you, as if you desire their company more than anything else in the world.
This is the kind of bullshit one has to contend with when pursuing the arts. This will be your social circle if you care to be around it. Perhaps this is why some of the more famous writers and artists choose to remain private and not hobnob with these self-important idiots. They turn people into objects. They like to label and categorize them like book on a shelf, separated into genres, categories and judged based on what category they happen to be. Oh, and you better be the right category, or else be met with rudeness or outright contempt. This is the “cool kid” club you saw in the high school hallway, and they carried this inanity into their adult lives. But it happens. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it. And it’s sad, pathetic.
So you are an artist, a writer, a musician, a whatever. What do you do? Do you cowtow to these idiots or do you hunker down and do your own thing, the way it is supposed to be? Hopefully you are doing your own thing, totally unconcerned with this cavalcade of nonsense and immaturity. Hopefully your energy is focused on getting your work done, creating, following your own muse to the best of your ability and actually being the adult in the room. I’ve witnessed these little social scenes come and go for near thirty years now - and over those thirty years, every little social group eventually disappears only to be replaced by a new one, each one as insidious as the last. And the funny thing is, with the exception of very very few of them, none of them ever amounted to anything. For all their posturing, for all their “expertise”, the overwhelming majority of them never produced a God damn thing, even independently. For all their self-declared genius, I rarely ever saw anything come out of them. Only pontifications, crowing, attitude. Never a piece of actual work.
So hunker down, my friends, and focus on what’s truly important. The one thing I can say with certainty is that it's not these folks. They will come and go just like they did before - and you will see nothing from them. Ever. And that’s because, deep down, they are nothing. Merely caricatures, clichés dreamed up in Hollywood studios or in the pages of old artist biographies about a world long gone, that is, if it ever really existed in the first place. You have more important things to do, more important things to accomplish. Remember that.