January 27th, 2011


Eternal and Insubstantial: Is writing 'better' than other art forms?

Lately Chris and I have been watching competitive cooking shows. Have you guys seen these things?! My favorite is Chopped, where chefs are given 3-5 random foods and have half an hour to prepare a meal incorporating all of them. After each round someone is 'chopped'.

It's super creative, high-tension, and a lot of fun. But it got me thinking about cooking as an art form, and why there are more writing superstars than chefs. I also started exploring the nature of the medium chefs use. It has always bothered me that even the most talented chef's best creation is worthless as soon as the food starts to get cold. As soon as the diner consumes it. As soon as it begins to rot.

You will never know how that tastes.

Totally not fair, right? For hundreds of years we have lauded ancient writing texts, such as Beowulf and The Odyssey, but we'll never be able to compare a single meal from the past with those of today. A culinary creation, once created, is forever lost. A book can be sampled by billions of people, over and over again, without its integrity changing, but we could never all share the exact same meal.

What about painters? They create exactly one masterpiece. Take the Birth of Venus for example. I don't know if you knew this, but that painting is HUGE and immensely detailed. Take a look at this to see what I'm talking about.

There is precisely one in the world. One. Sure, there are posters and digital copies, but only one that you could touch, smell, use a microscope on, etc. But writing? There are no originals. Not really. The text can be in any size or font and it's still got the same meaning.

Musicians? They're getting closer, in this digital age, but wouldn't you consider sacrificing some body parts to hear Mozart or Beethoven play their own works right in front of you?

I can't help but wonder if writing is inherently a more eternal (dare I say 'better'?) art form?