"How Genius Works,"

Friday, May 13, 2011

the Atlantic headline promised, and heaven knows: I am perennially in need of help. So I picked up the May issue and dug in, thinking, Somebody's going to teach me something new here. Somebody's going to say something so smart that I'll spend weeks reexamining my own thinking.

Not so much. Despite a wonderful concept and a kingly collection of wunderkind specimens—T.C. Boyle on writing the novel, Jennifer Yuh Nelson on developing the villain for Kung Fu Panda 2, Paul Simon on writing songs, Sarah Ruhl and Scott Bradley on writing the stage direction and creating the set for Eurydice, Tim Burton on his Alice in Wonderland, etc.—I never felt as if I moved beyond the surface here. Paul Simon, for example says, "You're going back and forth, words and music. If they come together—your best words with your best melody—well, that's something. That's rare." Frank Gehry speaks this way: "You're bringing an informed aesthetic point of view to a visual problem. You have freedom, so you have to make choices—and at the point when I make a choice, the building starts to look like a Frank Gehry building. It's a signature." Laura and Kate Mulleavy talk about their fashion being "very nature driven."

Perhaps it's just not possible to talk about how an idea emerges, or what it actually feels like to curl the edges and throw the bridges down. Perhaps artists need more than a page to reveal the big process stuff—the glorious cracks, the terrifying fissures. Perhaps talking about making defeats or negates the beauty of the made thing.

Perhaps I'm still out here working in my own inscrutable, untranslatable way.

5 comments:

aquafortis said...

Interesting. Maybe it's like taoism: if you can describe it, that's not it. :)

Q said...

I just think a lot.

Lilian Nattel said...

All of the above, and also it's one of those quickie headline grabbing glib pieces, which relies on celebrities' names. Are they doing deep thinking in that context? Can they?

Beth F said...

Hard to pin down the intangibles I guess.

Becca said...

I think there's simply too much magic in the genius to describe it properly in words. It's almost as if attempting to describe it would nullify it...

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