“All four of these writers are somewhat difficult to understand. Yeats wrote a poem, fairly early in his career, entitled ‘The Fascination of What’s Difficult.’ In the twentieth century, particularly, the most original work in all of the arts-including painting, music, sculpture, and architecture, as well as literature-has been difficult on first contact. It may be that we always have an initial difficulty with what is original, because it is, by its nature, outside of our normal experience up to that time. Moreover, we may be trying to ‘understand’ with a vocabulary that doesn’t yet have words to fit the new work.”
James Thorpe. Frontiersmen of the Spirit. Four Masters of Twentieth-Century Literature: William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, Wallace Stevens, Conrad Aiken. San Marino, California: The Huntington Library, 1980.
James Blish wrote that what we consider the norm today was rarely regarded as such when it was first introduced.
Is inaccessibilty or freakishness in a work of art a sign of greatness? Will Damien Hirst's sectioned animals preserved in lucite be considered great one day, or are they merely bad art? Does anyone enjoy listening to the music of Stockhausen? What do you think?