This piece in the New York Post offers a bill of indictment against contemporary crudeness and crassness in popular culture. Reading it, I thought I’d briefly share my own perspective.
As a writer of thrillers that present a crusading, romantic vigilante hero — a modern Zorro — I feel completely alien from today’s nihilistic pop culture, especially its fiction, TV, and films.
While violence and sexuality certainly are present in my thrillers, I take considerable pains to avoid the gory, graphic, and gratuitous. I prefer to keep the violence impressionistic, the sex romantic, and the language PG-13 (at worst), rather than X- or even R-rated.
My stories deal with rough, tough people doing a lot of vicious and violent things. However, fiction always has dealt with unpleasant subject matter, yet the finest narrative artists have never found it necessary to descend into gore-fests, or to detailed descriptions of degeneracy and perversion, in order to write tales about evil that are compelling. (Think of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, for example.)
Art is all about selectivity in presenting reality. Artists do not have to show everything, let alone dwell on it, in order to focus on the most important things.
Just as good art can inspire and edify us, so can corrupt art dispirit and degrade us. Our minds and souls are trained, habituated, and ultimately shaped by our artistic experiences. A steady diet of the morbid and the ugly shrinks us to the subhuman.
I know many readers appreciate discretion and good taste from storytellers. I like to think they enjoy my books as a romantic respite from the sordid ugliness and dispiriting cynicism that is infecting our society through degrading art.
When the cultural pendulum swings back — as I believe it will, and soon — those artists who haven’t succumbed to trendy sleaze stand to benefit.