May 20, 1990: Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson’s remarkable Kenyon College commencement address on creative integrity.
It all comes down to that urge to fascism — maybe a big word to use for art, but I think the right word — it comes down to that urge to fascism to know what’s best for people, to know that some people are of the best and some people are of the worst; the urge to separate the good from the bad and to praise oneself; to decide what covers on what books people ought to read, what songs people ought to be moved by, what art they ought to make, an urge that makes art into a set of laws that take away your freedom rather than a kind of activity that creates freedom or reveals it. It all comes down to the notion that, in the end, there is a social explanation for art, which is to say an explanation of what kind of art you should be ashamed of and what kind of art you should be proud of. It’s the reduction of the mystery of art, where it comes from, where it goes…
In his fantastic SVA commencement address, cultural critic Greil Marcus addresses the recent Gatsby cover controversy and what it tells us about the perilous division between “high” and “low” culture.
John Hodgman adds to our archive of advice to writers, echoing Ray Bradbury’s insistence on quantity and Kurt Vonnegut’s case for personal experience as the key to writing style.