Recently I was reflecting (if you know me, you how dangerous that can be) on art and what art meant to me, from whence came the Four R’s of Arrrrt. Yes, we’re not talking about just art, but arrrrt. How are they different?
Well, first of all, you have to say it like a pirate, like Captain Shelby, okay? Try it with me now. Arrrrt. Now wasn’t that fun?
Arrrrt is how an artist, say a writer, and one with artistic sensibility, say, a reader, sees him or herself. In other words, in what order one places his or her Rs.
Here they are, in no particular order:
This is a hard one to fathom indeed. According to Aristotle, it’s earned through actions. But many might think it’s based on how much one earns, one what does for a living, and so on. As a novelist and songwriter, I feel like I’ve spent my life fighting for it. Ironically, these days I realize it’s not a fight I was ever fighting.
We avid readers are often given labels, even stigmas (do book nerd or bibliophile ring a bell?). But I certainly respect avid readers; they are the wind beneath mine and many authors’ wings. Without them we would surely perish. The serious readers of my books respect me. I feel that. I certainly don’t make enough money to be respected in that regard. Hmm …
For writers this might be major awards, major lists, large readerships, brands, and so on. For avid readers perhaps high review rankings (e.g., top 500 Amazon reviewer, etc), high blog traffic, and so forth. But in the literary business, just look at history; it ain’t fun, folks. Many great book critics and writers were not properly recognized in their century. Another fight we don’t really fight?
This one sort of speaks for itself, but begs profound, perhaps disturbing questions. Can I pay my rent right now on my novels? No. Would I like to? Yes. Do I have options to sustain myself outside of pure art if I have to? Yes. Would I be willing to live in extremely meager circumstances if it meant finishing a great work? Yes. Are you a book reviewer, editor, critic, etc, who earns your rent from it? If so, I applaud you! Is this an important “R?” Hmm … I can think of many poor writers in history and in modern times. J.K. Rowling was packing her things to move under a bridge when the call came.
My favorite one, maybe because it’s philosophical … but most likely because it requires us to accept that there are objective qualities to art. Just think about it, if this were not the case, a signed picture of feces would have to be as equally respected as Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Ouch. I love books that have qualities that make them survive, whether that be their meaning, their unique prose, or the haunt of their stories. But that’s just me. Many readers prefer light and fun reading. I just had a veteran reader curse my latest novel CAPTAIN SHELBY partly because it required too much commitment on her part.
Here are my four R’s in their order of importance to me.
Where do yours fall?
Yours in literature,