24 February 1995

by jkatejohnston

Dear Max,

Do you think crappy art hurts people? Like that fucking Shakespeare. I missed Roseanne last night, and it was all his fault. I’m tutoring this poor high school girl in Henry the IV, and she doesn’t understand a word. We went for two hours, just to get her homework done.  Her mother was desperately reading the Cliffs Notes while Erica and I were reading the play aloud, and afterward the mother came up and asked both of us, “Did you know that the play is a comedy?” Erica looked at the back of her book (you know where they put the classification) and she said, “No, it’s a drama.” And I felt like saying, “No!  It’s a mess.” I mean, there are jokes, lots of unfunny, backslapping jokes. And drama? The whole thing is this massively inflated drama–so sure, drama, comedy, who cares? 

I’m dramatic too, melodramatic, exaggerated, but you don’t have to take it seriously. Shakespeare demands to be taken seriously–these are strong feelings! Feel them! I don’t ask anyone to share my feelings.

Now that we’ve established that I’m better than Shakespeare–back to my original question: doesn’t it hurt people a little when they’re taken in by these fake, inflated feelings? I mean it diminishes their alertness.

But remember that great thing in Boswell’s journal when he’s trying to explain to Voltaire why the English are so crazy about Shakespeare, and he’s saying, “It’s because…”  

“Because you have no taste!” says Voltaire