We could and should violate the
orderly logic and discipline of the story, but we must never ever violate what
constitutes the exclusive and essential character of a person,
that is, his personality, his way of being, his own, unmistakable nature.
This is from José Saramago’s novel
The Cave. One meaning it has for me
is that art is relentless. Every artwork develops (in the course of its
creation) its own exclusive and essential character, its own personality, its own
way of being, its own, unmistakable nature. If it
doesn’t have that, what’s the point?
The artist then must be true to everything that’s in the
work of art. If someone in a novel — a character the readers like (and whom the
novelist may like as well) — has to die, then that character must die. If a
composer hoped a piece of music would be pretty, and
suddenly it isn’t, (because of how its inner nature suddenly developed), then
the music won’t be pretty. Novelists often describe what this is like by saying
that their characters develop lives of their own, but it’s true for every art,
music most definitely not excepted.
Weak art either doesn’t have its own, unmistakable nature,
or else isn’t true to the essential character it starts with. A small example: the
movie version of The Devil Wears
class=SpellE>Prada, a film so disarming, so entertaining, that it
hardly needs criticism. But at the end, it tries to have its cake and also eat
it, to be realistic about something not exactly pleasant, but also show a
happier alternative. The world of fashion, depicted in the film, is a
class=SpellE>snakepit. The naïve heroine succeeds in that world,
discovers that she’s lost her soul, quits, and then finds her truer self by
working for a newspaper.
But that won’t work. The newspaper, the “New York Mirror,”
is of course a major metropolitan daily. In real life, a place like that might
be just as much a snakepit as any major fashion magazine.
So a fully artful movie would have shown the woman tested once again. Art (as
opposed to fairy tales, which also have their place) should
be relentless. Happy endings should be realistic, earned, and just a bit