Take a minute to parse this out: “Bad art is that which does not succeed in cleansing the language of its dead — stinking dead — usages of the past.”
I’m sure that within the right context — a graduate seminar on postmodern fiction, perhaps — that definition, from the poet DA Powell, could find itself bandied about in a lively debate. But to someone who’s been outside the leafy quads for a while — i.e., me — it doesn’ t make much sense. Other definitions of art, writing, and the writer’s life from a new(ish) documentary investigating what exactly makes for “good” and “bad” writing, range from vague, to hilarious, to immediately resonant.
In the 2010 film, Bad Writing, famous writers like Margaret Atwood, Lee Gutkind, and David Sedaris weigh in on their craft, its challenges, and the often thorny, contradictory distinctions we try to make between good writing and bad. If you missed the film in theaters (which you probably did, edged out as it surely was by the year’s stiff competition — Kick Ass, The A-Team, Tron: Legacy), never fear: you can now buy it from indieflix.com.
Meanwhile, I’ ll be watching for a documentary about what makes for good filmmaking, and how the aforementioned films got past the drawing board.