Jeffrey Carduner, Aesthetic Realism consultant, writes:
Reading “Contempt and Beauty,” this new issue of TRO, is a thrilling and deep experience. It’s about what’s best and worst in humanity (including oneself). It’s about what art really is and why that matters. And it has some of the most important evidence for why this world can be honestly liked—even now, even as we may rightly object to so much that is happening! With exactitude, depth, and often humor, answers we need are in “Contempt and Beauty,” the latest issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known.
The commentary by Ellen Reiss begins:
Dear Unknown Friends:
In this issue we publish the conclusion of the 1975 lecture we have been serializing: Contempt Here and There, by Eli Siegel. It is a magnificent fact that he, the critic who explained what beauty is and how art has what we want in our minute-by-minute lives, is also the person who has identified the ugliest, most hurtful thing in the human self. That thing is contempt, “the lessening of what is different from oneself as a means of self-increase as one sees it.” From the desire for contempt has come every cruelty, including racism and mass shootings.
Meanwhile, in the present lecture, Mr. Siegel is illustrating the fact that contempt is also everyday; it can have a certain quietude; can even seem intellectual, literary. He uses, as text, two reviews in British magazines of 1811. The first is Francis Jeffrey’s discussion, in the Edinburgh Review, of John Ford’s Dramatic Works. The second piece, in the Monthly Magazine, reviews Letters of Anna Seward, an author who lived from 1742 to 1809; and Mr. Siegel is in the midst of discussing statements of hers in this final section of his talk.
Two Writers of Maxims
I am going to quote three maxims by Mr. Siegel, from his wonderful, wild, and immensely logical book Damned Welcome: Aesthetic Realism Maxims. And I’ll comment on them as a means of looking further at contempt, the “ordinary” forms of which are not disconnected from, are kin to, and may be preludes to, contempt in its most vicious forms. The maxim, as literary genre, is a concise statement of something unexpected yet accurate about the world or people, expressed with, at once, nuance and point….Read more