Jude Hardin

Author, Drummer, Turtle Whisperer

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

What Makes a Book a Work of Art?

What makes one author an artist and another a hack? Are there objective criteria we can apply to literature, or is art entirely subjective? If it is entirely subjective, is one opinion more valid than another?

Ready, set, discuss!


Blogger Chris Wood said...

Okay, here's a thought.

One night I was watching some highbrow discussion thing on TV and these lofty commentators were saying "Is (such and such) art?"

I looked up "art" in the dictionary because, frankly, it's an interesting point.

The dictionary said that basically art is anything where the quality is the main reason for doing it.

That any help?

10:01 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

At the risk of being considered crass and money-fixated (which I probably am), I'm inclined to say, "No," there's no difference.

My wife refers to writers who are hacks who apparently are writing drivel, but I don't see it that way. I see them doing work-for-hire, which is another definition of "hack," after all, and one into which I fall. I try to bring some level of "art" to everything I do, even market research reports and research databases, because I'm trying to do the best I can.

10:06 AM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Interesting definition, Chris!

10:08 AM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

I agree, Mark. The word "hack" carries a negative connotation, but I don't think working for hire necessarily has anything to do with the artistic merit of a piece. Is the Sistine Chapel any less a work of art because the Pope commissioned Michaelangelo to paint it? I don't think so.

10:11 AM  
Blogger lainey bancroft said...

I sort of think of this as the Emperor's new clothes. If it confuses the unwashed masses, it must be art.

'Critically acclaimed' art, movies, shows, books, are not usually the ones that 'speak' to the greater audience.

Basically if I'm off spending the six figure advance I earned penning mindless drivel, I'm not going to give a flying you know what if you call me a hack. Hell, I've barely earned a six pack and I don't care now!

11:04 AM  
Anonymous Joe Barone said...

I just saw an excellent stage presentation of Sweeney Todd. I was still thinking about it (not just the murders but the meaning) several days later. To me, that's art. It still engages me long after I've been done with it.

11:17 AM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

It's like James Patterson says, Lainey, "Thousands of people hate my books...but millions of people love them."

I'm sure he laughs at his critics all the way to the bank.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Good point, Joe. Something that resonates emotionally long after The End. I think that's definitely part of it.

11:22 AM  
Blogger Edie said...

Judy, I had a harder time answering this than I thought. "Hack" is a derogatory term and it isn't a word I use for other writers. I think in the end it's all subjective.

12:19 PM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...


I can't speak for Judy, but I think you're right. :)

But should opinions from certain individuals carry more weight than others?

12:35 PM  
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3:32 PM  
Blogger Kath Calarco said...

I think the term "hack" is snobbish, used loosely and too often by the righteous assholes (excuse my French) of the world. (Remember Hitler's Degenerate Art exhibit, and you'll know what I'm saying.)

And in answer to the question, books are a creative expression, as all art is.

5:20 PM  
Blogger lainey bancroft said...

Judy...Judy...Judy, so nice to see you blogging again, because, yeah, I desperately needed one more place to visit to distract me!

"But should opinions from certain individuals carry more weight than others?"

Sure. Opinions from like minded individuals you know and trust should most certainly carry more weight then opinions of pretentious assholes you don't know and will likely never meet.

(and Kath, in French 'asshole' is 'connard'.I should know, I'm surrounded by a few here in French-town ON--sounds so much nicer in French, doesn't it?)

8:39 PM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

It's okay, Kath. You can say asshole here, just try not to say motherfucking asshole.

10:59 PM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Lainey, that French, it drives me wild...

11:07 PM  
Blogger Kath Calarco said...

Jude, thanks for opening up the F-bomb door for me. lol And Lainey, yes indeedy, connard had less of a bite.

10:05 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

LOL, I've been thinking about this for days, but I don't have an answer. I guess I think all books are a work of art, hack or no.

5:54 PM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...


I would at least say nobody sets out to write a bad book, and quality is entirely subjective, IMO.

11:03 PM  
Blogger Edie said...

LOL Sorry to have called you Judy, Jude. I knew better, but my fingers didn't.

9:04 PM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

Jude, I finally answered your question on my blog. I'm a slow thinker, LOL...

10:18 AM  

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