This is one of the most in-depth, incisive philosophical ponderings I’ve read on the subject. I do think the author confuses monstrous with focused when it comes to artists of either gender. The difference between a focused artist and a monster is that a focused artist does not steal souls unless they are monsters. Also one can be a focused artist while not being a monster. Woody and the rest of his ilk can esad.

Still from Woody Allen’s Manhattan Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, William Burroughs, Richard Wagner, Sid Vicious, V. S. Naipaul, John Galliano, Norman Mailer, Ezra Pound, Caravaggio, Floyd Mayweather, though if we start listing athletes we’ll never stop. And what about the women? The list immediately becomes much more difficult and tentative: Anne Sexton?…

via What Do We Do with the Art of Monstrous Men? — The Paris Review

13 thoughts on “ESAD WOODY

  1. I like her take on this. And yet, it reminds me about the deeply patriarchical society. A man can be a monster, it’s normal, his art is great. Or even if we accept his monstrosity isn’t normal, at least we can accept that his art STILL is ART. Great art.
    If a woman does a tenth of what those monsters did, by abandoning their families for the sake of getting their art out, finishing what needs to be finished, what they carry within them, then they are told off “Oh, you mean the last time you abandoned me and the kids?” How many male writers wonder about abandoning their wives and children? How many SUCCESSFUL ANYTHING thinks twice about abandoning wife and children? And how many wives of successful anything think it may not be quite normal that they are abandoned?
    They usually don’t because it’s normal in our societies that women sacrfice for the good of the family, whereas it’s normal men set out to be and do great things.

    And that’s what makes me know I need to be more selfish at times, if I want to finish that painting, I need to be more selfish if I want to write that book. But I also think that I want my children to be well-balanced, and thus I put my own needs away for the sake of taking care of my children. Whether it be for building a successful career (I could up and go somewhere else where my career would be greater, but I decided to stay, to follow their father), or getting the art out (What? You mean that painting hanging on the dining room table, waiting to be finished, has to go because we need the table to eat? Sigh!)

    So yes, I still have to learn, WE, as a society, still have to learn, to teach our daughter to be just as selfish as their brothers, and our sons to be just as altruistic as their sisters, if we want to have a more balanced society.

    And us, as women, need to accept that it is not mostrous to take time for ourselves, to forget about the family at times, in order to achieve our own greatness. At least far less monstrous than to force people into doing things they don’t want to, assaulting their physical and mental boundaries for our greater gain.
    We need to stop comparing ourselves to the monsters who do and not be shamed into inaction because we’re ashamed of our mosntrous side.

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  2. I agree with you that she sometimes confuses monstrous for focused. I don’t think selfishness is necessarily monstrous, but it does seem that those who feel compelled to create are also capable of monstrosities. Perhaps, it is only a matter of type or degree that separates us. I can only speak for myself when I say this, but I sometimes think I have become desensitized to the monsters is our midst. Woody Allen doesn’t make me mad. I can still watch Bill Cosby and Kevin Spacey (although not without experiencing some uncomfortability). Why would we deny ourselves the pleasure of experiencing a work just because the creator is a monster? I know that I, too, am capable of bad things. Sometimes, knowing that makes me uncomfortable. Sometimes, it actually makes me feel powerful. This dilemma makes me think of what it means to confront a shadow self. Is it the looking glass that makes us most uncomfortable?


  3. Becoming desensitized to violence is a(n) (mal?)adaptation to our society and its many forms of violence. Woody rubs our noses in it with the movie she highlights in her essay, just as Cheeto does at the helm. One question may be, do we simply adapt to this garbage and the products of this garbage? Another may be why not cry out against it wherever we see it in order that others may see there is a collective consciousness about the intolerability of sexual exploitation, regardless of the artists’ level of artistic ability or station in life? As to a person denying themselves the beauty of the work of particular artists because of peripheral knowledge of the artist, for me, at least, that isn’t difficult in the least, as there are innumerable exceptional other artists that have, do, and will exist, to a degree that I shall never touch the surface of the numbers of their artwork out there. I would find it much more concerning — nay, evensomuch as disturbing — if the desensitization to mala esse was such that it allowed me to regard it as appropriate and/or acceptable.

    I like the almost palpable agonizing the author goes through in her stream-of-consciousness-like ruminations. I don’t like how she puts herself down and it is mystifying the connection she draws between what she perceives as her guilt for putting her art first at times to the genuinely pathological rationalizations of sexual predators who happen to be artists.

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  4. Maladaptive? Sure, I suppose. I’ve never seen the Woody Allen film she talks at length about. (As a general rule, I don’t care for Woody Allen films.) I have no idea how I would respond to it. She does a good job of showing us that a genius can also be a monster and that they can coexist in the same work. I like that she used Sylvia Plath as an example. Her poetry is both beautiful and heinous.

    As for the author’s agonizing…Overall, I appreciated it, but it would have been more effective if her examples were stronger. To equate female selfishness with molestation and abuse is ridiculous. Is she suggesting that women aren’t capable of monstrosities, as men are? I think she is. And, I don’t like it. Those sections of rumination and self-examination—while I appreciate that they’re included—largely ring false to me. Is dedicating too much time to her own art the worst thing she’s ever done? I doubt it. She should have reached deeper for more poignant examples. The dark, warped side of human nature that exists in work, as in life, is what she should have focused on. That “thing” that keeps us reading or viewing, even when we’re horrified (because we’re pleasured, at the same time). She mentions it and then shies away from it in favor of a more gender-based argument that seemed overstated to me.

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  5. Yes, it rang false to me also, for the same reasons. I agree that reading fiction that is horrible — I’m reading, _A Clockwork Orange_ right now, which is a perfect example of horror that is also titillating — is one thing; however, if the author was a serial rapist, I would not be interested in reading it. Who was it who said that when one stares into evil, it is also staring into you? (paraphrase)

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  6. “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” – Nietzsche

    Is that the quote to which you refer?

    Liked by 1 person

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