Songbook and Art

Songbook by Nick Hornby

I just recently finished Songbook by Nick Hornby. Pretty good collection of essays on music. But one of my favorite bits was about the importance of  what I like to call “happy art.”

“It’s important that we are occasionally, perhaps even frequently, depressed by books, challenged by films, shocked by paintings, maybe even disturbed by music,” wrote Hornby. “But do they have to do all these things all the time? Can’t we let them console, uplift, inspire, move, cheer? Please? Just every now and then, when we’ve had a really shitty day?”

Neil has this theory about books and films that the most meaningful ones have the sad endings. He prefers it if a book or a movie  is melancholy, has distress or discomfort. It’s more artistic. That may be well enough. The creative works that punch you in the gut with the feels often have the most lasting impressions. The risks and stakes are so much higher that, of course, it affects the reader or viewer or listener deeply.

But I like what Hornby has to say about art with consolation, inspiration, even cheer. It is no secret that I am a big fan of indulgent films and literature. Don’t get me wrong. I like to bawl with the best of them, but sometimes I need something fun. Some might call this escapism, but I call it having a good time. So much of what we experience in daily life is in itself painful. Why shouldn’t art be vaguely escapist. Isn’t that the point of fantasy? And why does something have to be heart wrenching to be considered art? If a piece of work is affecting, if it inspires, if it stirs, then I consider that thing art. Only the evocation needs to be present, and it can reference shock or depression, but also happiness, joy, laughter, and levity. It’s a mistake to dismiss that which affects in the positive. I understand not all comedy or light-based creative works are good. In fact, some are downright awful, but there are still a good hunk that I would consider of merit. And yet though dramas are necessary and in many cases artful, they are not the only ones that should be considered great. Besides, without the dark, how would we ever know the light?

Until next time.



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