Posted by: Mark Nielsen | February 20, 2018

Art vs. Commercialism, Round 2.51


Below, another small gem, passed on from sci-fi novelist John Scalzi’s “Whatever” blog (which I had kind of gotten away from the past year, but it’s good to keep in my back pocket for practical encouragement, about writing and about life in general).

commercially accessible” is a mode, not a limit. Nor do I think it limits what one can do in terms of artistry. I think you can make a strong argument that staying within the bounds of which is “commercially accessible” in any era means that you prioritize some elements over others and that the amount you can “stretch the envelope” is less (or perhaps better stated that you can stretch it in fewer simultaneous directions) than if you feel free to disregard a commercial imperative — that the art goes to where the audience already is more than it challenges the audience to follow. But I don’t think it makes it any less art, or that commercially accessible art can’t move and affect people with the same intensity as art that has less overt commercial intent.

The item above catches my attention for two reasons:

1) because as I work on a novel of my own– a crime fiction/coming-of-age piece about nightclubs and organized crime at the dawn of the turbulent Sixties– I need to find a tone and style that is accessible to a wide audience, even though it is now fifty-plus years beyond the world of my fictional and historical characters…

2) because jazz, beatniks, poetry, abstract painters and other “bohemian” subject matter have almost never been million-dollar juggernauts, even when their stars were changing the creative landscape and language for generations to come.


To quote Paul Simon, “Every generation throws a hero up the pop charts.” (Boy In the Bubble, from the classic Graceland album).


Be it in music, theatre, visual arts, film, television or (dare I say it?) literature, no creative person ever set out to be a “starving artist”. But some did set their sights on being popular, and others on being innovative— yet being both is like catching lightning in a bottle.

To say the right thing, in the right voice, at the right time, and get the attention and support of market forces or social groupings which will ALSO benefit from disseminating that message… that’s my own version of the American Dream.

It would also be nice to finally make a decent living, free from financial anxiety, so I can tackle other problems, either my own or those that God throws into my general vicinity.


So while you’re throwing Bruno Mars or John “Fault in Our Stars” Green up the pop charts in 2018 (two accessible artists available st your local Target store, whom I nevertheless hold in high regard), throw up a prayer that I have the confidence, stamina and luck (grace?) it will take to finish and distribute my own work of art, or entertainment, or whatever the sales people want to label it after the fact.

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