The two faces of art
The situation of the arts is two-faced. One face is the face of equal opportunity. Everybody gets a try: equal opportunity. To that face there should be no guardian at the door—it’s open admissions. The other face is the face that deals not with opportunity and hope but with the quality of the actual work produced and the extremely high standards that are required to sort out the very most enduring and emotionally useful work from the next level down, and the many other levels below that. That doesn’t require a guardian. It requires time, which sorts these things out, cruelly, but with a terrible efficiency.
Both faces are required, particularly for an American. We must try to live up to the glorious rhetoric of the founding fathers and mothers of our country and say, Listen, everybody gets a shot at this, nobody is excluded from it, there’s nobody at the door. Later on, time is at the door, erosion is at the door, forgetfulness is at the door, oblivion is at the door. These are worse than any three-headed dog ever.