We critic types generally don't require art to be instructive, socially meliorating, or "true," but I know that in my case, aestheticism is partly a luxury of being a white American man. Perhaps it takes a lot to offend me because I rarely feel personally affronted or threatened by a work of art. In some ways, it would be nice if more art could inspire such passionate criticism and defense, even if the criticism seems to point to an unsavory terminus. Should Styron's book not have been published? Would un-staged, "positive" images of noble Appalachians have more to teach us?
"I hate limitations," says Adams in The True Meaning of Pictures, sounding a bit like Bukowski or Thompson. "I hate for people to tell me I can only do this, I should only do that, and do it in a certain way." I like Adams's line of artistic inquiry--his reckoning with the small questions, the big ones, the ones he didn't even consider--and I realize that once again I had it all wrong. A question, like a cut-rate collage, can't be judged on size alone.