What Good Are the Arts? by John CareyHailed as exhilarating and suggestive (Spectator), thought-provoking and entertaining (David Lodge, Sunday Times), and incisive and inspirational (Guardian), What Good are the Arts? offers a delightfully skeptical look at the nature of art. John Carey--one of Britains most respected literary critics--here cuts through the cant surrounding the fine arts, debunking claims that the arts make us better people or that judgments about art are anything more than personal opinion. But Carey does argue strongly for the value of art as an activity and for the superiority of one art in particular: literature. Literature, he contends, is the only art capable of reasoning, and the only art that can criticize. Literature has the ability to inspire the mind and the heart towards practical ends far better than any work of conceptual art. Here then is a lively and stimulating invitation to debate the value of art, a provocative book that anyone seriously interested in the arts should read (Michael Dirda, The Washington Post).
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A lesson with the art master
That the arts are somehow good for us is a common idea, but explaining why, or defining what is meant by "good" or "us" or even "the arts", is a tricky business. For the past two decades, in Blair's Britain no less than in Thatcher's, the case has been made on economic grounds: the arts are good, and therefore merit state support, because they provide jobs, attract consumers more people now go to the theatre than to football matches, it's claimed and contribute to the wealth of the nation. That the arts have value insofar as they keep accountants happy seems a dismal justification. But as John Carey's incisive and inspirational new book shows, there are far worse. To Hitler, whose programme of arts subsidy was one of the largest in the history of civilisation, what was good about art was that it "raises [people] above the petty cares of the moment and shows them that, after all, their individual woes are not of such great importance". As Carey sees it, Hitler's veneration of art wasn't a side-issue but the force that shaped and nourished his inhumanity.
February 8, by Vishy. What Good are the Arts? The column was about interesting books that the columnist had read recently. But when I enquired around in different bookshops, I realized that the book was not easily available. Finally, I went to the Oxford University Press office, and asked them whether they had a copy of the book. They said that it was there in their database, but was not readily available, and it would take a couple of months for them to procure it.
John Carey--one of Britain's most respected literary critics--here cuts through the cant surrounding the fine arts, debunking claims that the arts make us better.
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