The reason books imitate art

The Broken Obelisk sculpture in front of Houston’s famed Rothko Chapel.

It is a tranquil and meditative environment inspired by the abstruse mural canvases of the Russian-born Rothko.

I know why we read books.

But how do we judge books?

What causes us to like books even if we don’t like them?

Is it the author?

Is it the writing?

Or are we the victims of our own prejudices, the one we don’t know we have.

I fear that we often like certain books for the same reason we like certain pieces of art.

Critics have decreed them to be great, and we think we are supposed to like them.

In Houston, we walked past Barnett Newman’s famed steel sculpture, Broken Obelisk, and into an inner sanctum as stark, as mysterious, as intriguing as the complex mind of artist Mark Rothko.

It is a tranquil and meditative environment inspired by the abstruse mural canvases of the Russian-born Rothko, an abstract impressionist who believed that his art could free the unconscious energies previously liberated by mythological images, symbols, and rituals.

He considered himself a mythmaker and proclaimed: “The exhilarated tragic experience is, for me, the only source of art.”

The Chapel is overwhelming in its starkness and emptiness.

The paintings are there, dark and foreboding. It is as though our eyes were having difficulty trying to find substance and a sense of meaning in.

They were, as some said, “impenetrable fortresses of color.”

I looked hard. I didn’t see anything at all.

I turned to the lady beside me, a patron of the arts. “Are you sure this is art?” I asked.

“It’s magnificent,” she said.

“I only see walls painted black,” I said.

“Look harder,” she said.

I did.

“Now what do you see?” she asked.

“Walls painted black,” I said.

She sighed. Patrons of the art sigh a lot.

“The paintings are filled with figures,” she said.

They must be hidden behind the shadows.

“And faces,” she said.

I guess their eyes were shut. I felt as though mine were.

“See the crosses?” she said.

“No, ma ‘am.”

“Look over at that one,” she said.

I did.

“The doves are flying.”

The doves must have been flying at night.

I was confused.

She was enthralled.

“What makes these paintings so great?” I asked.

“Mark Rothko painted them.”

“And that’s all?”

“Mark Rothko was brilliant,” she said.

“Who says?”

“Everyone.”

Everyone can’t be wrong. The chapel is always filled with patrons of the arts.

I didn’t get it at all.

I believe that some books sell and some authors keep selling because we are led to believe these select few writers are great storytellers and their books deserve to be bestsellers.

It’s heresy to believe otherwise.

I don’t like all of the books.

I don’t like all of the authors.

So why do I feel guilty? So why would any of us feel guilty?

Personally, I believe a good story well told should stand on its own merit no matter who wrote it.

Just because a critic or a reviewer didn’t like doesn’t mean I won’t.

Please click HERE to find my Memoir of Sorts, The Man Who Talks to Strangers, on Amazon. 

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