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Cult Of The Difficult
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Cult Of The Difficult

Poem By gershon hepner

To grasp three arts defeats the brain;
for music, art as well as word
to all be grasped without a strain
is hard, so you must dropp the third,
like Ulysses, into the Liffey,
and not wake Finnegan, whose cult
is too obscure and somewhat iffy,
as triple chord too difficult.

Inspired by an article by Terry Teachout in the December issue of Commentary (“The Cult of the Difficult”) . Reviewing Peter Gay’s book Modernism: The Lure of Heresy. Teachout wonders why the so-called philistine bourgeoisie has not accepted, Schoenberg, the most radical composer the 20th century, Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake, the most radical novels of that century and the most complex innovations of 20th century painters:

The most impressive thing about Modernism is the apparent ease with which Gay discusses so wide a range of artistic activity. “To appreciate two of the arts in a discerning manner is not unusual, ” the novelist Anthony Powell once remarked. “Where three are claimed, more often than not, grasp of the third shows signs of strain.” The author of Modernism would seem to be an exception to this rule. Not only is Gay absolutely secure when talking about literature and the visual arts, but he writes almost as fluently about music and dance (which he treats, not altogether convincingly, as a single topic) .

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