Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Pain of Glen Gould's Greatness


How hard is it to keep meaning afloat? D. N. sent me the following:

“The novel, The Loser, is written by Thomas Bernhard and is one of several novels that I've read of his. He's an existentialist who is always confronting his protagonist with indecision and decisive action by a secondary character. The loser has three characters, Glenn Gould, Wertheimer and the narrator who all studied with Horowitz in Salzburg. His novel is perfect for me to be reading once again as he writes of "comparisons" that we artists often make in lessening our selves and our works.

“In Bernhard's The Loser, the narrator's first encounter with Glenn Gould's piano expertise as a performer is devastating to his career as a concert pianist. Wertheimer is likewise devastated. Both Wertheimer and the narrator abandon their careers eventually because they are not as good as Glenn Gould. Of course, they wanted to be the very best in the world and nothing less. The narrator commits suicide and Wertheimer gives up and goes into science. Thus the title to the novel, The Loser.

“The subject matter interests me as to how an artist deals with comparisons when reaching for being ‘the greatest artist.’ It need not even be ‘the greatest artist’ but perhaps discovering that some other artist arrived at one's imagery before and is recognized as the first one or originator. And then there are all the awards that tell us as artists that we’re great; and for those who haven't received any awards - well they're 'less than'.”

Yes, this is yet another reason why it is so hard to keep meaning afloat!

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