November 9, 2010

Creative Women

David Brooks explains that America will do swell economically in the 21st Century:
The crucial fact about the new epoch is that creativity needs hubs. Information networks need junction points. The nation that can make itself the crossroads to the world will have tremendous economic and political power. ... In fact, the U.S. is well situated to be the crossroads nation.

Okay, but, that raises the paradox that in 2010 the American state that is the biggest drag on the economy at present, California, is also the one blessed with two vast creative hubs, Silicon Valley and Hollywood, both of which are doing reasonably well right now. (Here's Apple's balance sheet, which is a lot better looking than mine.)

Yet, California, as a whole, isn't doing well.

A population cannot live by creativity alone.

Yet, what really struck  me about Brooks' column was this section:
Howard Gardner of Harvard once put together a composite picture of the extraordinarily creative person: She comes from a little place somewhat removed from the center of power and influence. As an adolescent, she feels herself outgrowing her own small circle. She moves to a metropolis and finds a group of people who share her passions and interests. She gets involved with a team to create something amazing.

Then, at some point, she finds her own problem, which is related to and yet different from the problems that concern others in her group. She breaks off and struggles and finally emerges with some new thing. She brings it back to her circle. It is tested, refined and improved.

Is this self-parody or self-abasement? My impression is that Brooks tends to get the joke, and that he does this kind of thing on purpose to ingratiate himself with the huge audience of Gladwellians who don't get the joke. As an officially designated "conservative," it's particularly necessary for Brooks to periodically humiliate himself like this to assuage suspicions that he might get the joke. Perhaps I'm wrong, though.

Obviously, the first thing anybody would notice when drawing up a composite picture of the "extraordinarily creative person" is that she isn't a she. 

I mean, isn't that a theme in The Social Network: 21st Century Silicon Valley is overwhelmingly dominated by guys? By the way, the creators of The Social Network are named David and Aaron, so Hollywood isn't that different from Silicon Valley.

Further, my vague impression of extremely creative women is that they are less likely than extremely creative men to come from somewhere "removed from the center of power and influence." I don't have a good database of creative women right at hand, but let's take as examples the two women who have been nominated for a Best Director Oscar over the last decade (out of 50 nominees): Sofia Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow. The former is the daughter of the man who made The Godfather and the latter used to be married to the man who made Terminator and Titanic. That's about as close as you can get to the center of power and influence in the filmmaking.

My general impression is that women who have made a big splash in a creative (artistic or scientific) field are more likely, on average, to have had strong support from loved ones than their male peers enjoyed. For example, the two most famous female painters of the 18th Century, Angelica Kauffman (left) and Louise Elizabeth Vigee Le Brun (above) were daughters of professional painters, married into artistic families, and were both adorable-looking. The first major female painter, Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653) was the daughter of a follower of Caravaggio, although she was of more Rubenseque proportions than her Rococco heiresses.

I went to look up some of my favorite female creative artists of the late 20th Century to see if this trend continues. Choreographer Twyla Tharp -- here's a minute of Baryshnikov in her witty 1975 ballet, Push Comes to Shove, about how much fun it is to be a heterosexual male ballet god -- turns out to have been born on a farm in Indiana. Her parents then moved to the San  Bernardino area and bought a drive-in movie theatre. So, that's one strike against my theory.

How about portrait photographer Annie Liebowitz? (Here's a sneering British article about how she's broke because she won't play along with galleries and museums in artificially restricting the supply of her pictures. But, so what? If you had the chance to pick the photographer who would take the picture by which you would -- or wouldn't -- be remembered, who wouldn't make Liebowitz your number one draft choice?) She turns out to be a military brat, the daughter of an Air Force Lt. Colonel. As with Tharp, that's an above average background, but it's not like being Sofia Coppola.

So, my impression went 0-2 with my more recent examples. Perhaps it's becoming less true.

134 comments:

Anonymous said...

In the past you had to come from a good background to be creative because otherwise you were a peasant who had to work all the time. Duh.

sadfasdfasdf said...

"I went to look up some of my favorite female creative artists of the late 20th Century to see if this trend continues. Choreographer Twyla Tharp."

YOU GOTTA BE SHITTING ME!!! SHE IS THE WOIST!!!!

Martha Graham, she was a goddess.

asdfasdf said...

"How about portrait photographer Annie Liebowitz?"

Another favorite female artist?

YUCK. Trash photographer of dumb celebs.

adsfadfasf said...

Btw, who cares about dumb categories like who got nominated for oscars? Welles and Kubrick never won it. Does that mean Ron Howard is a better director?

I don't know if they fit the theory or not.. but these gals ought to be considered:

Joni Mitchell
Martha Graham
Lina Wertmuller
Leni Riefenstahl
Martha Stewart
Oprah Windbag
Katharine Hepburn
Barbra Streisand
Carole King
Susan Sontag
An army of liberal Jewish female professors on campus(I had my share of them back in the days)
Zadie Smith (haven't read her but she's hot).
Anne Applebaum
Dr. Laura
Judge Judy
(some of these women aren't creative but to succeed in showbiz and entertainment, they must have some creative juice)
Julie Taymore
Liv Ullmann(who turned into a very good filmmaker)

And my guess is there are lots and lots of successful professional women who aren't GREAT or PROFOUND but involved, in a teamwork manner, in museums, advertising, graphic art, dance, drama, etc.

ASDFASDFAS said...

Steve's idea of great dance:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhbxI5eVnM4

GIMME A FREAKING BREAK!

Sylvia said...

Filmmaking is a boy's club and rarely lets women anywhere near the reigns of power. You'll find that there are many would-be female directors in LA and here in NYC who have to settle for writing or editing positions. I've seen a lot of material from female Film School students that surpasses anything their privileged male peers are doing. The few who are allowed directorial positions are usually beneficiaries of nepotism.

Brooks is right by the way. Creative women have to come out to the coasts. There's nothing in flyover country for them.

Also, Steve, as usual you employ glaring omissions to shore up your weak points. Why did you leave out literature? It's the one creative field in which women are almost on an even playing field, and where women have been have made incalculable contributions especially in Sci-Fi and Fantasy.

Dutch reader said...

Leni Riefenstahl seems kind of fit the description with respect to provenance: she was from a well-to-do family, but without any connection to her field of excellence (cinematography) that I'm aware of.

Simon in London said...

I tried to think of someone who fit Brooks' description. Katy Perry?

Most of the important women on British TV tend to be the daughter of the former leader of the Labour Party, that kind of thing, as you suggest.

Simon in London said...

Re Brooks' thesis - Weimar Germany was very creative.

Anonymous said...

I admit I do enjoy it when you smack around David Brooks' arguments. But after a while you have to feel bad for the guy. It's like watching... well, its like watching someone beat up David Brooks.

Kevin K said...

43% of female physicists are married to other physicists. The percentage of male physicists married to female physicists is much lower because there are fewer female physicists.

I'm sure this assortive mating skew is true with women in other male dominated fields like directing.

Anonymous said...

"She comes from a little place somewhat removed from the center of power and influence. As an adolescent, she feels herself outgrowing her own small circle. She moves to a metropolis and finds a group of people who share her passions and interests. She gets involved with a team to create something amazing. . ."

For a minute there I thought he was talking about micro-loans in a Third World country.

Anonymous said...

At Harvard, I too got this impression that the most talented women, especially in science and math, had high achieving fathers. Off hand I can think of five I knew personally who are now tenured faculty, all in universities of modest prestige. Talented men at Harvard, as likely as not, were sui generis -- ol' dad was a factory worker, an accountant, or a anonymous salary man in some big corporation.

My observations, however, apply to a bygone era at Harvard when high caste Indians and Chinese were small minorities and assortive mating of whites hadn't yet created the fairly rigid cognitive classes of today. Now, I would fully expect both the most talented men and women to be following in Dad's footsteps. Especially for immigrant kiddies whose fathers usually came to the US to assume prestigious or high paying jobs.

Mr. Anon said...

"Howard Gardner of Harvard once put together a composite picture of the extraordinarily creative person: She comes from a little place somewhat removed from the center of power and influence. As an adolescent, she feels herself outgrowing her own small circle. She moves to a metropolis and finds a group of people who share her passions and interests. She gets involved with a team to create something amazing."

I think a composite picture of David Brooks is now emerging - he is, in reality, a thirteen year old girl. He writes like one, anyway. Use of the word "amazing" is especially girlish - has anyone else noticed how overused this word is in modern day america, especially by young women?

On the other hand, most teenage girls today have enough decorum and self-respect that they wouldn't just sit passively while being felt up by a senior republican senator, unlike David Brooks.

Anonymous said...

"Creative" can mean a lot of different things in different contexts. J.K. Rowling is immensely creative, and a billionaire as a result. Other female creatives include everyone from Margaret Atwood and Suzanne Collins to Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. That model (the individual creative directly responsible for content) is fairly open whether you are male, female, or otherwise. But filmmakers and tech entrepreneurs require something different than the pure creativity of Rowling or Leibowitz (or Stephen King or Robert Mapplethorpe). They require large scale investment from people who already have resources at their command, and those folks have opinions on what they believe will work. They require a devoted cadre of worker bees who are willing to work themselves into catatonia on your behalf. That model is very much akin to a military model, and all of the cultural baggage would tend to generate a specific set of preferences for a leader. Thus, irrespective of the relative skills of women or men (on which this model is neutral), the culture as it currently stands is more likely to entrust $100 million for a movie in a known paradigm (male director, boys club producing team), rather than take a risk on something unfamiliar.

jody said...

i just had an argument on the internet about this topic, with a doctor, except the subject was, who are the best surgeons? of course, it's men, by such a huge margin that's it's preposterous to suggest otherwise. yet there he was, a guy who is a doctor for 10 to 12 hours a day, every day, with 12 years of school behind him, trying to tell me there was no such evidence.

needless to say, professionals in any field do not like being told that they are dead wrong about anything whatsoever, even topics peripherally related to their daily job. just him being a real doctor, was enough for him to tell me that i could not possibly know more than him about this one very specific topic, despite the fact that it's something he has never explicitly thought about, while it's been my hobby for over 10 years. i don't need to be a doctor myself to observe, with some careful analysis, that men do almost all of the pioneering surgical procedures, as well as the majority of dangerous but common surgeries.

i encountered the same hostility in 2008 when i argued with people in the oil industry about why the US could NEVER drill it's way out of $140 a barrel oil, and why democrats absolutely, positively were not causing this problem by preventing the oil companies from getting to all available US resources. after losing the argument to me again and again via basic math, they all resorted to telling me i could not possibly be right, or know more about any energy topic than them, because i was not a geologist or chemical engineer or an oil rig roughneck. they had never thought much about this one very specific topic, while i had just spent about 2 years analyzing it in my spare time. many epic flame wars were had where i explained to experts that ANWR would not bring the price of a gallon of gas down by more than a few cents. finally the energy department itself published a study explaining this exact thing.

this was also the period when i realized what a colossal failure the energy department is in it's core mission, and what actually caused the US oil crisis in the 70s (the US transitioned to being a net oil importer, a situation that will NEVER, EVER change, despite anything ANY republican EVER tells you. they are WRONG.)

RKU said...

"Okay, but, that raises the paradox that in 2010 the American state that is the biggest drag on the economy at present, California, is also the one blessed with two vast creative hubs, Silicon Valley and Hollywood, both of which are doing reasonably well right now...Yet, California, as a whole, isn't doing well."

I wonder a little about this...

Since California is by a wide margin the large American state which is the most Hispanic, the least white, and the most liberal Democratic, it's natural that rightwing and WN types are always denouncing it. But I wonder if they really know what they're talking about.

Now obviously California was hit very hard by the Housing Bubble, and unemployment is a couple of points above the national average. But even now, housing prices are still much higher than the national average. So anyone (including Steve!) who really didn't like living there could just sell their small home, move away to Texas or the Midwest or the South, and buy a very large house or even a mansion. And with the Internet these days, more and more jobs are location-independent. That leads me to suspect that things aren't nearly as bad as all the complainers allege.

Furthermore, America's four greatest concentrations of national wealth, influence, and power are DC, Wall Street, Hollywood, and Silicon Valley. The first two are totally parasitic, the third is perhaps semi-parasitic, and only the last is viewed in a positive light almost everywhere in America and the world. So the only major parts of America important in a positive way for the world are in California. Substract California, and America becomes just a big Argentina with nukes.

Admittedly, California's government is broke and disfunctional. But most of the other big state governments in America are also broke and disfunctional, with the Federal government being worst of all. By some rankings, California's fiscal mess is worse than that of the major states, but by other rankings it's more in the middle and (I think) Florida and New York have bigger problems.

Anyway, just a few thoughts from a native Californian annoyed at all the endless denunciations from the rightwing blogosphere...

Thursday said...

Marguerite de Navarre had her husband. Fanny Burney had her father. Elizabeth Gaskell had a connected family. Mary Shelley had her parents and her husband. The Brontes had each other. Christina Rosetti had her brothers. Louisa May Alcott had her father. Virginia Woolf had her father. Colette had her husband.

Sor Juana was largely alone. Emily Dickenson was alone. Kate Chopin was alone. Maria Edgeworth was alone. Jane Austen was alone. Mary Evans (George Eliot) was alone.

Gaspara Stampa and George Sand were middle cases.

So, there does seem to be some support for this in literature. However, only up until 1900 or so. I saw no such pattern in 20th century lit.

Anonymous said...

Just another PC fantasy that's easily shown to be, well, just fantasy. I like seeing these bubbles get popped as they come up. Stories like this appeal to the broader public because they want a good inspiring tale and thus have a need to believe it to be true. And thats the problem; most people prefer to latch onto a feel good fantasy rather than checking the facts. The majority, it seems, aren't reality based; don't bother them with the facts. So what can you really do with a population like we've got? Two minutes later some newer, fresher nonsense comes down the pipeline.

dearieme said...

Creative women? Madame Curie and a handful of novelists. No-one else remotely top flight.

But the lack includes a lack of creative politicians - no female Lenins, Stalins, Hitlers,
Maos.

Nanonymous said...

That is simply the latest PC. Whenever gender is uncertain (person, writer, reviewer, etc) to use "she" instead of the previously used default "he" or more neutral "he or she". Presumably, this is done not to offend any women and show your lack of sexism. The frequency of this usage is steadily increasing. John Hawks does it on his blog, for example. Sometimes this leads to almost comical results. E.g., I've seen this "she" usage in reference to a generic theoretical physicist.

Yes, PC types are this petty.

Jonathan Silber said...

So, American women will oil-paint the country back to prosperity.

P T Barnum said...

Another inside joke.

Brooks purposely misuses the term "creative" when he describes an obviously "entrepreneurial" person.

This is an increasingly PC tactic to lower/dissolve concrete standards so everyone is equal and can feel special.

Like my infant with blocks or tempra paint, everyone views themselves as "creative". This is especially true for the frequently callow, vain and status seeking NYT SWPL readership.

"Entrepreneurial" demands that someone actually has a rare combination of extreme talent, drive and risk-taking that results in measurable degrees of success and failure.

Also, to become "famous" entrepreneur, one must also be an equally talented risk-taker, salesman, networker, self-promoter, etc. Creative people who lack these other talents usually become anonymous cogs in a larger machine producing for others famous historical figures like Edison, embittered failures or self-destruct like Virginia Woolf.

Part of the gender imbalance is due to the fact that men have proven to be far greater risk takers, sales schmoozers, self-promoters and egotists in general.

Julien Sorel said...

Of course Brooks isn’t thinking of this as a joke, though he’s not precisely thinking of it as empirical either. (Steve doesn’t have this quite right, but his obtuseness about this sort of thing is part of what he is & what makes him interesting.) He (Brooks) is thinking of it as something that we’d like to be truer than it is, something of which there isn’t really an inherent or natural reason why it can’t be and so maybe it eventually will be if we nudge it in that direction, something that gives him a warm and fuzzy (and moderately repellent to those of good taste) feeling. A soft moralism, with blinders of fabric rather than leather.

Davout said...

Where do Twyla Tharp and Annie Liebovitz rank in the respective pantheons of modern art and photography?

On a separate note, both are lesbians and I'm wondering if lesbianism, or at the very least a masculinized brain, is a necessary but insufficient attribute for a woman to be extraordinarily creative.

Polichinello said...

This topic reminds of the Simpson's episode you discussed a few years back:

Marge: Women are as smart as men. Why, a woman invented Liquid Paper.
Homer: Well, you know what a man invented? Actual paper!
Marge: Well a woman also invented the windshield wiper.
Homer: Which goes great with another male invention: the car! [high-fives Bart]
Marge: Ummm, I think a woman came up with nylon stockings. I mean, probably. We certainly use them.
Homer: Let's see, men also have: rocket ships, suspension bridges, constitutional government, snowshoes, brass knuckles...
Marge: [groan]
Homer: ...pinball machines, the Renaissance...
[cut to Homer, lying on couch alone at night]
Homer: Oh, why did women invent sleeping on the couch?

Just shoot me said...

Oh.

See, *I* thought the joke was, "extraordinarily creative she-person" is a euphemism -- for dumb, sexy blonde with big boobs who goes to Hollywood to be an actress.

"Howard Gardner of Harvard once put together a composite picture of the extraordinarily creative person: She comes from a little place somewhat removed from the center of power and influence. [i.e., farmer's daughter]
"As an adolescent, she feels herself outgrowing her own small circle. [i.e., Not attracted to any of the beta boys in her tiny high school]
"She moves to a metropolis [i.e., Hollywood] and finds a group of people who share her passions and interests. [i.e., Director says, "I'll make you a star! Just lie down on this couch.]
"She gets involved with a team to create something amazing. [She gets cast to wear a mini skirt and plunging neckline]

"Then, at some point, she finds her own problem, [i.e., starts to imagine she has talent and writes a "script"] which is related to and yet different from the problems that concern others in her group. [Her script sucks; theirs don't]
She breaks off and struggles and finally emerges with some new thing. She brings it back to her circle. It is tested, refined and improved. [i.e., totally rewritten, and her name is not even in the credits.]

Davout said...

To qualify my prior comment, I wrongly inferred from this source that Twyla Tharp was a lesbian. However, her appearance and personality traits do suggest a considerable degree of masculinization.

Severn said...

The nation that can make itself the crossroads to the world will have tremendous economic and political power.


At the price of ceasing to be a nation and transforming itself into some sort of "free enterprise zone".

Anonymous said...

As more and more evidence piles up supporting HBD and differences between races, more and more attention will be paid to differences between men and women as a sop or diversion. Like a dam bursting, something will have to give.

syon said...

Re: Baryshnikov,

Reminds me of the old joke,"How does a straight guy in ballet school feel? Very happy."

Women and creativity: Charles Murray, in HUMAN ACCOMPLISHMENT, found it quite telling that literature was the one field where the top ranked females (Lady Murasaki, Sappho, Emily Dickinson, etc) are truly competitive with men.

Severn said...

She moves to a metropolis


The idea that "the metropolis" is a hive of creativity seems to be one that people of Brooks social class are susceptible to. The whole concept of the big city has a strong emotional appeal to them. Economist Paul Simon built a semi-mystical theory of of wealth creation around the notion that dense concentrations of people naturally result in creativity, like a ball of plutonium being compressed and releasing energy.

But there's really not a shred of evidence that all this is true. America's great cities, populated by a disproportionate percentage of low-IQ minorities, seem if anything to be rather less creative than their raw numbers suggest they should be. And I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for FTL travel and nuclear fusion power to emerge from Mexico City or Jakarta.

It's probably significant that Brooks, Gardener, and Simon are all Jewish.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

You read way too much into politically correct gender pronoun usage.

Anonymous said...

I can see how paintings and movies really improve the human condition. After all, we would all be nervous wrecks if we didn't have such things.

Fred said...

This is the kind of post that separates you from a lot of bloggers, your willingness to test your hypotheses empirically.

Anonymous said...

In the Bay Area we have a world renowned creative woman - Alice Waters. She is usually credited with being the founder of the California Cuisine movement.Even during this recession her restaurant in Berkeley is doing fine - just try to get a reservation.

Waters is in many ways a typical creative woman - refined and small scale. Chez Panisse serves up a good plate of grub but not very many. At about the same time that Waters rose to her position of culinary attainment the fast food chain Jack-In-the-Box redid their whole menu. They went from having the worst burgers and fries to having the best. They introduced chicken burgers and taco salads. The person who masterminded this revolution was probably a man - a very creative man and probably now a very rich man.

So creativity is implicitly defined as not just something new and better but something new and better in an approved field of endeavor.

Twila Tharp was creative in dance I suppose but did she have as much cultural impact as Chubby Checker or Michael Jackson?

The impact of creative women is overestimated if you count founding a boutique as equivalent to founding an industry.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

"Obviously, the first thing anybody would notice when drawing up a composite picture of the 'extraordinarily creative person' is that she isn't a she."--Sailer

Not true, Steve (and, btw, fb is not that creative a concept).

I don't want to insult you, but do you know how many female creative geniuses that are extant? I am in the arts, and I can happily report that women are just as talented as men. Science is another story.

Anonymous said...

How about in math and science? Emmy Noether's father was a mathematician. Marie Curie's husband was also a physicist/chemist. Maria Goeppert-Mayer came from a long line of professors. Lise Meitner had Boltzmann for a professor, and was supported by her family through her degree. In these fields, it appears that the most creative ones have been nurtured into their subjects by supportive family and outside influences. Of course, this is very selective, but it does not seem to indicate that the most influential women scientists outgrowing a small circle. It seems the greatest women instead grow into their circle with the aid of their achievements. In my personal experience, females in physics and related fields are very likely to have a father, brother, or husband who is a scientist.

Dong Wang Koon Tang said...

You're absolutely correct, Mr. Brooks is just being PC, that's all---it's pretty innocuous: generic-stand-in persons, either male or female, when possessing good traits are described as 'she,' when possessing bad traits are described as 'he.'

Brooks is a good guy but he's definitely a wuss.

Matt G. said...

A 19th century example that would fit your criteria well would be the novelist Mary Shelley author of Frankenstein. Shelley's parents were both well known political philosophers, and her husband was the poet Percy Shelley. I don't know if creativity is an inherited trait, but your criteria of having creative parents would seem to suggest that it plays a role. I would also venture to guess that being the child of well established parents helps get the creator an audience that somebody from an obscure background away from the centers of power wouldn't have.

Anonymous said...

someone in the comment section wrote this:

Pretty amazing that your creative archetype is a generic "she" even though almost all historical examples of creative-types are in fact "he's."

I think David Brooks and people like him are responsible for the myth of groups of peoples being equally talented in all ways.

Just look around you, who are the people who are entrepreneurs and movers and shakers of the world? The Hollywood elite, the people at the forefront of any industry. Please note their race and gender.

=============================
so other ppl get the joke too

Whiskey said...

The thing to remember is our feminized culture HATES HATES HATES (come on, you know you needed it) beta males.

Who are the ones to take disparate pieces of things and put them together in new ways to create new technology. Hence say, farm-boy Philo T. Farnsworth using the inspiration of his plowed fields to take existing light-sensitive arrays of silicon and create a signal, line by line. That could then be used to paint a cathode ray tube.

Nothing earth-shattering, the pieces already existed, they had not been put together that way before.

That's more creative than some tragically hip fashion design. Which is what Brooks is talking about (the Richard Florida hip, gay-friendly cultural centers).

Whiskey said...

Brooks readers are hip, trendy, metro women who are totally SWPL, and few hangers on who are male. Look at the size and heft of the Life and Style sections of the NYT vs. Sports.

call me ismael said...

It's funny to see "creative women" in quotes, because only women are truly creative. Men must console themselves with merely artifical creations.

Has any woman with mulitiple offspring ever created anything of note? Kathryn Bigelow has no children. Jane Austin had none. Neither did Flannery O'Connor. Coppola's oldest child was born 3 years ago, which means she was childless when she made her most ambitious movie, Marie Antoinette. It will be interesting to see what her creative output will be now that she's a mother.

helene edwards said...

There was a magazine piece about Steve Jobs shortly after he returned to Apple. The author recounts a meeting in which Jobs tells his "chief technology officer," a woman: "you are a f****'in moron!"

not a hacker said...

I guess Brooks is talking about Taylor Swift.

nglaer said...

Steve,
Does Social Network accurately portray how many cute young women are available to Silicon valley types? My sense is that computer nerds don't do so well in that realm (at least prior to marriage) despite being smart and rich.

not a hacker said...

I'd have to re-read "Bobos" to know if Brooks gets the joke. As I now understand it, the joke is that for this new class, "creative" means "fraudulent" or "made up," the prime example being Climate Change. So Al Gore is the creator, and from now on most creativity will be a riff on his opus, the contribution of the chattering class being to inure the volk to their newly lowered standards of living.

Paul Mendez said...

A population cannot live by creativity alone.

Gee, I sure hope you're wrong.

I went to a friend's 50th birthday a few months ago, and there were several college-age kids there. All smart, going to hi-dollar schools. If I remember correctly, they were studying...

- Fashion Design
- Sports Broadcasting
- Convergent Media*
- Creative Writing
- Classical Guitar
- Psychology

* whatever the heck that is.

Anonymous said...

As far as creative women being encouraged by families, that might be true of the ones who lived succesful lives. What of the ones with sad ends? Sculptress Camille Claudel's family was mostly discouraging toward her, though some very famous artists championed her cause and made sure she got her work displayed. She had quite a few works to her name and some not(supposedly she did hands for Rodin -- on his sculptures I mean), but she died in an insane asylum after a tenure of some 40 years. She had also deliberately destroyed a lot of her works. V. sad. One of the famous male sculpturs of her day said of her case, that the life of sculptur is hard enough for a determined and driven man--the isolation, the miserable conditions of studio, the trouble of procuring the right stone, dealing with the vendors, the other rival artists, etc., but for a woman it would be destructive indeed. He was French and of the 19th century, but this was stuff I'd never thought about and the description of the hard, thankless life of even a famous, successful sculptur was so appalling that I wasn't too surprised the poor (and beautiful) Camille went bonkers. But then so did a lot of male artists in those days. Maybe it was just something in the materials.

Anonymous said...

Steve, what you point out is indeed statistically "true."

but, in pointing it out, you will be accused of being uncharitable... and
ungentlemanly

women don't like truth, they want to be admired.

Anonymous said...

I dunno. Is this really self abasement to a (red statish at least) Conservative?:

"She comes from a little place somewhat removed from the center of power and influence."

"She moves to a metropolis and finds a group of people who share her passions and interests."


I suspect the real difference here is not that Conservative and Liberal people disagree with this stereotype (of which I am highly sceptical of the truth value of), but in their interpretation.

Leftists probably interpret "a little place somewhat removed" as "some vibrant and diverse country" or "small town america" (negative) and right wing folk thinking "small town america" (positive). Similarly, leftists would think of "a group of people who share her passions and interests" and "metropolis" as "some cool little boutiquey social/artistic/counter cultural movement" while right wing folks would tend towards "a large company/a startup/university/the army".

James said...

"Has any woman with multiple offspring ever created anything of note?"

Yes. One example is Elizabeth Longford, the British historian who died at 96 in 2002, having had eight children and having produced important biographies of Queen Victoria, the Duke of Wellington, and Lord Byron. Lady Longford's daughters include Antonia Fraser, novelist and biographer of Mary Queen of Scots.

Franco-Indonesian-Australian novelist Sophie Masson has three children and, according to her Wikipedia entry, has had something like 40 books published.

James said...

"Has any woman with multiple offspring ever created anything of note?"

Yes. One example is Elizabeth Longford, the British historian who died at 96 in 2002, having had eight children and having produced important biographies of Queen Victoria, the Duke of Wellington, and Lord Byron. Lady Longford's daughters include Antonia Fraser, novelist and biographer of Mary Queen of Scots.

Franco-Indonesian-Australian novelist Sophie Masson has three children and, according to her Wikipedia entry, has had something like 40 books published.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

and where women have been have made incalculable contributions especially in Sci-Fi...

Actually, women are ruining sci-fi. Hard SF is disappearing because the women authors don't have science or tech backgrounds, and a lot of them are gay so their stories don't have much appeal outside the coven.

Michael Farris said...

Performers may not fit Steve's vision of creativity, but they're worth mentioning.

Two very major Country Western Artists (and innovators) who were female - Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton grew up in grinding, third world style poverty.

And Maria Callas arguably the most influential classical vocalist of the last 100 years or so came from a out of the way background. She married a wealthy man who supported her in the early very lean years of her career but he wasn't in any real position to help her professionally, she did that all on her own against a lot of resistance.

Carol said...

I go to a pretty conservative church, but last week one of the stupid lay readers said "the Father and the Son - or the Daughter" in a prayer. Liked to have retched.

Apparently "inclusive language" is rampant in the liberal parishes.

Severn said...

Why did you leave out literature? It's the one creative field in which women are almost on an even playing field, and where women have been have made incalculable contributions especially in Sci-Fi and Fantasy.



Ummm .... examples? I have a hard time thinking of female writers who have made "incalculable contributions" to Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Who's the female Tolkien, or Lovecraft, or RE Howard, or Clarke?

There are some women authors who've made contributions within a genre or sub-genre, but none who've blazed a trail which others then followed.

bjdouble said...

Please, "assortative mating" (what mating isn't assortative?) does not explain anything in one or two generations. Please stop this now.

Severn said...

Marie Curie's husband was also a physicist/chemist.


And perhaps more to the point, she did nothing very exceptional by male standards. She's notable chiefly for having been a female scientist.

I expect the majority of college grads in America could tell you she discovered the element radium. How many of them know the name Jöns Jacob Berzelius? Perhaps a few chemistry majors.

Anonymous said...

It's funny to see "creative women" in quotes, because only women are truly creative. Men must console themselves with merely artifical creations.



By that measure, fruit flies are really, really creative.

But I think some degree of conscious effort has to be expended before you can call an activity creative.

David said...

Women's greatest creative product is humanity. Shouldn't they stick to their strength and leave the toys to the boys?

adfasdfsdf said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:American_women_writers

I don't know most of these people but maybe they need looking into.

asfasdfasdf said...

What about creative conservatives? That would be a mostly pisspoor list.

Anonymous said...

call me ismael, who doesn't really understand, said...

It's funny to see "creative women" in quotes, because only women are truly creative. Men must console themselves with merely artifical creations.

Has any woman with mulitiple offspring ever created anything of note? Kathryn Bigelow has no children. Jane Austin had none. Neither did Flannery O'Connor. Coppola's oldest child was born 3 years ago, which means she was childless when she made her most ambitious movie, Marie Antoinette. It will be interesting to see what her creative output will be now that she's a mother.


So, actually, the baby creates itself. It uses the mother (and her womb) as a receptacle, kind of like a mobile egg shell, and as plumbing to get the nutrients it needs in the process of building itself. (Does the female emperor penguin create the offspring, or does the male who incubates it by sitting on the egg, or does the zygote in the egg do it?)

It is surprising how many people don't understand this simple and obvious truth.

Anonymous said...

"How about portrait photographer Annie Liebowitz?"

I seriously question whether she's an XX female.

Maybe she's inner-sexed.

Kylie said...

Steve Sailer said..."I went to look up some of my favorite female creative artists of the late 20th Century to see if this trend continues...Twyla Tharp...Annie Liebowitz..."

You are such a kidder.

Steve Sailer said...

Lady Longford -- I read her biography of Wellington many years ago. Most exciting account of Waterloo I've ever read. Her book inspired me to visit the battlefield of Waterloo many years later.

David said...

>So, actually, the baby creates itself.[...]

It is surprising how many people don't understand this simple and obvious truth.<

Not surprising at all, since it's an absurdity that almost no one would think of.

How can something create itself prior to its existing in the first place? In fact, the parent[s] decide[s] whether or not to have sex. The baby isn't present to influence things.

Or - as Nancy Grace once asked - is it sperm? Well, it's more believable that sperm are causing schizophrenia than that they are directing matings....

David said...

Clever sequence of paintings, Steve. At least it's his BIG head they're cutting off.

Le Sigh said...

Severn said...

The idea that "the metropolis" is a hive of creativity seems to be one that people of Brooks social class are susceptible to. The whole concept of the big city has a strong emotional appeal to them. Economist Paul Simon built a semi-mystical theory of of wealth creation around the notion that dense concentrations of people naturally result in creativity, like a ball of plutonium being compressed and releasing energy.

But there's really not a shred of evidence that all this is true. America's great cities, populated by a disproportionate percentage of low-IQ minorities, seem if anything to be rather less creative than their raw numbers suggest they should be. And I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for FTL travel and nuclear fusion power to emerge from Mexico City or Jakarta.



It won't be coming out of Antrim, Michigan, that's for sure (unless that's where the East and West Coast-based scientists conduct their experiments).

Anonymous said...

So the only major parts of America important in a positive way for the world are in California. Substract California, and America becomes just a big Argentina with nukes.-rku

Well. there's that gigantic US manufacturing sector-presumably most of it outside Silicon valley-that the libertarians and other free traders keep reminding us about.

Anonymous said...

Severn said...

"Marie Curie's husband was also a physicist/chemist."

And perhaps more to the point, she did nothing very exceptional by male standards. She's notable chiefly for having been a female scientist.

I expect the majority of college grads in America could tell you she discovered the element radium. How many of them know the name Jöns Jacob Berzelius? Perhaps a few chemistry majors.


Oh, but that's no fair. She was held back by pernicious sexism and the patriarchy! So there!

Anonymous said...

(Does the female emperor penguin create the offspring, or does the male who incubates it by sitting on the egg, or does the zygote in the egg do it?)

The eternal "what comes first, the penguin or the egg?" dilemma.

Ray Sawhill said...

1) I'll second Michael Farris on gal performers. There are tons and tons of amazingly talented women singers, actors and dancers out there. My theory about this is that where guys tend to like to make things, women tend to like to put themselves on display.

2) For women, the conflict between putting your talents to work and having kids is something that's never going to be resolved. That's one reason why creative women often work in fields like poetry, novel writing, painting, etc -- these are things you can do while the kid's asleep. Directing movies is tough: you have to commit yourself 24/7 for many months to a project. How many women with kids are able to do that?

Anonymous said...

I instantly thought of Yoko Ono. Where would her career have gone had she not met John Lennon?

Anonymous said...

All those young women flocking to the coasts... where they will fill cities teeming with other young women. They will focus on fun and their careers until it's too late to have children. What a great future, or present.

Anonymous said...

One of the only female classical composers of note Clara Schumann... wife of Robert.
Her influence is blown far out of proportion in all university music programs.

Anonymous said...

The thing to remember is our feminized culture HATES HATES HATES (come on, you know you needed it) beta males.

I don't know why Whiskey keeps harping on this point. Non of my close friends or immediate relatives would be considered alpha males, yet we all are married to above average IQ, college-educated women with careers. And yes, we have kids.

Whiskey this theme of yours that white women hate beta males doesn't fit. What I think you are observing is that white women are teaming up with NAMs against white males politically because of affirmative action. White women, not NAMs, are the biggest beneficiaries of affirmative action, and therefore some, like NAMs, have grown to have an attitude that the world owes them something.

That's why the democrats have been able to split white women from white men in elections. This doesn't mean they hate lowly white males, it just means they are voting for their perceived personal interests. Maybe as times change and the looming dawn of third world America seems a bigger threat than the loss of AA status, white women will vote more along the lines of white men. Hopefully, 2010 is the start of such voting behavior.

Udolpho.com said...

"Also, Steve, as usual you employ glaring omissions to shore up your weak points. Why did you leave out literature? It's the one creative field in which women are almost on an even playing field, and where women have been have made incalculable contributions especially in Sci-Fi and Fantasy."

this has gotta be a gag post

Robert said...

I just finished Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Gone with the Wind. I will never read another page by Jane.
Whereas the slaves in Gone with the Wind are important and well-rounded characters, the non-well-to-do in Jane are not.
Gone with the Wind is like Colleen Mccullough's Roman history novels. They are books to be reread, enjoyed, and learned from.

TGGP said...

I don't know how creative big cities are, but I recently looked in the GSS and found that the wealthy live in suburbs instead.

It's not white women broadly who are split from white men. The gender gap really shows up among the unmarried.

Mercer said...

From the Brooks column:

" fix immigration to funnel talent; reform taxes to attract superstars; make study abroad a rite of passage for college students;"

Has Brooks ever written that immigration policy should be changed to let in more high skilled and less low skilled?

Apparently Brooks thinks parents don't spend enough on their kids college education. They should also have there kids travel abroad during their college years. This could be the birth of a new entitlement.

asdfasdfasd said...

"I instantly thought of Yoko Ono. Where would her career have gone had she not met John Lennon?"

Actually she was already an established 'artist' in the NY scene when she met Lennon. That was one of the things that attracted him to her. Lennon had gotten tired of being just an entertainer and wanted to be an ARTIST. He lent her fame, she lent him avant garde credentials as she had connections and a certain reputation in the art world.

adfadfaf said...

"Filmmaking is a boy's club and rarely lets women anywhere near the reigns of power. You'll find that there are many would-be female directors in LA and here in NYC who have to settle for writing or editing positions. I've seen a lot of material from female Film School students that surpasses anything their privileged male peers are doing. The few who are allowed directorial positions are usually beneficiaries of nepotism."

Bullshit. Any director worth his or her salt doesn't wait to be allowed in. He or she just makes the move, like Tony Montana in Scarface.

And in this age of digicam and Sundance film festival, anyone can make a movie if he or she really wanted.

ITriedtobeaCynic said...

I've been reading your blog for several years, Steve, and you've said some pretty controversial things, but you never shocked me til you rated Annie Liebovitz, The archetypal Californian airhead. I always thought it was funny that the intellectuals' intellectual, Susan Sontag, was the life partner of the creator of "Rock Stars in their Underpants". I was going to say AL gives lesbianism a bad name, but it's truer to say she gives banality a bad name.
Another point: some comments seem to think the following fact (with made-up figures) is significant:
20% of science postgrads are women. 100% of women scientists are married to other scientists, but only 25% of men scientists are married to other scientists.
Third point: Women creators are most prominent in mainstream novels: not in a genre like SciFi, and not in poetry or plays. Jane Austen is generally and rightly IMO recognised as the greatest, and if you think that's contradicted by the fact that the plot of her greatest novel has been summarised as " a young gentleman changes his manners and a young lady changes her mind" you're not ready for grown-up novels. In the 20th century women novelists seem more predominant in Britain than in the US or Canada or Australia or Ireland (has anyone ever heard of a New Zealand novelist, BTW?)

Sword said...

Mercer wrote:

Apparently Brooks thinks parents don't spend enough on their kids college education. They should also have there kids travel abroad during their college years. This could be the birth of a new entitlement.
-----
Well, if US. kids study in foreign universities a few things will happen. The tuition fees are generally drastically lower, creating a downward price pressure on US. tuition fees. Supply vs. demand, new market actors, and that sort of thing. Also - dependent on where one studies - there will be less gender awareness stuff, and definitely less racial AA. Many 1st-world countries have not ethnic AA at all. Finally, white US kids will experience being an ethnic minority, in a relatively safe setting. Being a minority will maybe make them think in ethnic membership terms later on, back in the USA.

Steve Sailer said...

Sure, Annie Liebowitz is an airhead, but she's made more people look cool over the last 40 years than anybody else.

lesley said...

Somebody mentioned there'd been no women on the order of Lovecraft--Shirley Jackson gave him a run for the money. Remember "The Lottery?" I'll never forget the first time I read that. Horror writing is one genre where I've read some fantastic female writing. Also crime writing.
How about Agatha Christie? P.D. James? I guess you could say Christie took off on Conan Doyle, but the way she told stories and the quantity she produced, was pretty unique and still lives on.
The genres of literature in which women have pioneered and excel are sort of odd-ball genres imo. If you want mideaval France, the Crusades, the reality of life in the castle circa 1100, read Zoe Oldenburg, The World Is Not Enough. Incredible. Never read anything like it. You can smell the dead leaves after a village burning.
Laura Ingalls Wilder. Kids books, esp. girls', so naturally most the commenters here would be unfamiliar with her writing if not her name, but genius shimmers through her story telling. I have read memoires galore and never read any as starkly real as they are haunting and dreamlike. There are a number of childrens' writers of the female persuasion who could be called geniuses of a sort--Beatrix Potter perhaps-- and that does make sense--women have been telling kids stories forever. Also illustrators. And I haven't even gotten to some of the pioneering women of the alternative medical field, or the "crazy" and wildly controversial physicist, Dr. Judy Wood. At least she give reasons for what she believes and only accepts what she sees.
I'll leave that for a women-can't-be-real-scientists post. They're always fun.

There is certainly something to be said for the greater agressiveness and concentration with which men are likely to embrace their chosen avocations, and in some cases their achievements are dependent on stratospherically high IQ (it is only above 140 that a male/female iq divide becomes persuasive), but I think people who claim there are no creative women geniuses are rather ignorant of the creative output in the last 180 years, are not interested in the fields most women of achievement have worked in, only look in certain quarters for certain opinions, and perhaps they choose to be that way.

Anonymous said...

I just finished Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Gone with the Wind.

Margaret Mitchell was childless, also. She suffered from several physical ailments, which kept her off her feet and allow her plenty of time to read and write. Being a mother definitely makes it more difficult to achieve Gladwell's 10,000 hours of practice.

Ray Sawhill said...

Hey, Steve's comment about Annie Liebovitz -- "Sure, Annie Liebowitz is an airhead, but she's made more people look cool over the last 40 years than anybody else" -- highlights a little hobbyhorse theme of mine, namely that art-talent and IQ have little or nothing to do with each other! Fun.

If anyone's interested and open to the idea ... As someone who's led the arts-and-media life for more than 30 years, I suggest that you'll find it far more useful to think of art-talent as something that resembles athletic talent than it is to think of it as something having anything to do with IQ-style brainpower. The work of art-and-entertainment world people is sometimes worth paying attention to not because these are such smart people who are conferring their brainpower on us but because they're gifted people who've managed to find ways to turn their often bizarre talents into products that the rest of us can enjoy.

Creative artsworld people are often seriously unimpressive intellectually. But they're also often gifted in ways that can make your jaw drop.

Severn said...

Women creators are most prominent in mainstream novels



Seems to me that some definition of what is meant by "creative" is needed here. Some people, like the above commenter, regard the writing of a novel to be creative by definition. I'm not sure that's true - was the writing of the tenth novel in the "Miss Marple" series a creative act in the same sense as inventing the transistor or painting the Mona Lisa?

Not all creative work can be deemed equal. There's a hierarchy of creativity.



There are tons and tons of amazingly talented women singers, actors and dancers out there.

Sure there are. But how many of them are creative? Singing, acting and dancing rank low on the creativity scale, below the writers, producers and choreographers.

Elbrac said...

Georgia O'Keefe?

Anonymous said...

My theory is Annie Lesbobitch is really Noam Chomsky in drag--his secret second life.

This is Steve's idea of looking cool?

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_ZuyLifDfqNg/TJZfn3HAA4I/AAAAAAAABP4/wziluT-kPYc/s1600/demi-moore-leibovitz_105184395.jpg

ROTFL.

Anonymous said...

Do musicians count as creative? Lots of famous Jewish and Asian female cellists and violinists.

BamaGirl said...

"Also, Steve, as usual you employ glaring omissions to shore up your weak points. Why did you leave out literature? It's the one creative field in which women are almost on an even playing field, and where women have been have made incalculable contributions especially in Sci-Fi and Fantasy."

I agree that women have made many contributions to literature, but unfortunately the one genre that they have hurt rather than helped is adult sci-fi/fantasy. They all tend to be blatant Mary-Sue stories. Plus the entire sci-fi section at the local barnes and nobles has basically morphed into the "vampires and paranormal" section of late- sadly- and mostly thanks to women/female readers I'm afraid.

Kylie said...

Steve Sailer said..."Sure, Annie Liebowitz is an airhead, but she's made more people look cool over the last 40 years than anybody else."

You mean like the photo of a naked Lennon in a fetal position clinging to a clothed Yoko Ono?
To me, that's not cool but creepy. I knew Lennon had mommy issues but there he makes Norman Bates look normal.

Similarly, I see nothing cool in Liebovitz's famous photo of herself when pregnant. The beauty of impending motherhood aside, anyone as iredeemably ugly as she is really needs to stay behind the camera, not pose in front of it.

Ditto her photograph of Mickey Rourke after he destroyed his face. Ditto her deathbed photos of Sontag.

In my admittedly reactionary POV, creepy can be cool (Norman Bates) but usually is just creepy (John Lennon acting out his Norman Bates side). If it's creepy and cool you want, why not go for Diane Arbus?

tutu said...

I second Georgia O'Keefe. Totally unique and powerful.

"Not all creative work can be deemed equal. There's a hierarchy of creativity."

Nobody's tearing off Leonardo's doublet and making thong panties out of it. But after all this is a blog, one of whose contributors dismissed the greatest Japanese printmaker of all time as a kindergarten fingerpainter. There is very limited imagination, scope and appreciation here at times, even when comfortably within lines of gender or race. As one would expect. HBD and all that jazz.

Still, a discussion of creativity should be creative within the bounds of talking about actual people who actually lived. The list would have been different in 1800 even if one only discussed persons living before 1750.
The opening salvo was about creative women. Ergo, if you want info, you gotta leave Leonardo on his pedestal and go to the nether reaches with a torch.

Anonymous said...

has anyone ever heard of a New Zealand novelist, BTW?

Katherine Mansfield
Janet Frame (subject of the female New Zealand filmmaker Jane Campion's Angel at My Table)
Anne Perry (also the subject of a film by another New Zealander about her unfortunate past)

Anonymous said...

"Bullshit. Any director worth his or her salt doesn't wait to be allowed in. He or she just makes the move, like Tony Montana in Scarface.

And in this age of digicam and Sundance film festival, anyone can make a movie if he or she really wanted."

uh, that's the difference. How many people get to Sundance? Not everyone can get there no matter how good. I doubt many of these talented women (they're there, I've seen them too) are going to keep at it like the men. Men will keep plugging away even when they are mediocre. It doesn't matter--it's his work and therefore deserves to exist. Women don't keep at it, trying. Not when it comes to their works of art, which may be excellent. I guess one person I can't imagine as a female, despite his apparel proclivities, was Ed Wood. Now that was a driven creator.

Svigor said...

and where women have been have made incalculable contributions especially in Sci-Fi and Fantasy.

What are these contributions of the "fantasy" sort? Fantasy fiction is a wasteland AFAICT.

Svigor said...

most people prefer to latch onto a feel good fantasy rather than checking the facts.

Another way to say it, is that people believe (trust) what they read. A better way, I think, because I don't see much feel good fantasy in "black failure is your fault, whitey, and you're going to pay," for example.

Severn said...

Still, a discussion of creativity should be creative within the bounds of talking about actual people who actually lived. The list would have been different in 1800 even if one only discussed persons living before 1750.



I missed the part where a cutoff date was laid down. And regardless of the cutoff date, it's still useful to have some semi-objective criteria for ranking creative people. Otherwise we end up with these claims about the contributions of women authors to sci-fi and fantasy.

Severn said...

The genres of literature in which women have pioneered and excel are sort of odd-ball genres imo.



I can't think of any genre of literature in which women have pioneered. Which is not to say that there have not been some excellent female writers in fields which men have pioneered.


If you want mideaval France, the Crusades, the reality of life in the castle circa 1100, read Zoe Oldenburg

All good subjects, to be sure, and I don't doubt but that Oldenburg does an excellent job, but this sort of historical fiction is not a genre "pioneered" by women. George Shipway was covering this same ground very effectively in the sixties and seventies, and he was not the first either.

Severn said...

Do musicians count as creative? Lots of famous Jewish and Asian female cellists and violinists.



It counts as creative if you're writing music, but not if you're just playing others compositions.

DaveT said...

I tripped on that part of it, too. Brooks is a bit of a low-wattage wiseguy, so I also think it was deliberate/provocative rather than currying favor with anyone in particular.

Over centuries of course there will be examples of women coming along who discover Mitchell's Comet or design COBOL or that kind of thing, but there aren't piles of female inventors of the microwave oven or the integrated circuit or Facebook, etc. Not from lack of intellect, just they don't care about anti-social tinkering, as I believe you've already observed. Women "artists" are an entirely different matter.

David said...

>art-talent and IQ have little or nothing to do with each other<

I love relating Gore Vidal's catty comment about Andy Warhol: "The only genius I ever met with an IQ of 60."

>Men will keep plugging away even when they are mediocre. It doesn't matter--it's his work and therefore deserves to exist. Women don't keep at it, trying. Not when it comes to their works of art<

Well, there ya go. Aren't children works of art for mothers, though?

James Kabala said...

"Whereas the slaves in Gone with the Wind are important and well-rounded characters, the non-well-to-do in Jane are not."

Austen's principal characters are mostly middle class by the standards of their times. Furthermore, Emma, for example, has well-rounded characters among the genuinely non-well-to-do.

Anonymous said...

Here's what Gail Collins said to David Brooks in today's Times, in their Wednesday feature where these two talk to each other between columns:

"This is why Barack Obama likes you so much. (Admit it, when you’re around he ignores every other journalist in the room.) It’s because he sees you as the kind of sane Republican he was planning to be bipartisan with."

ITriedtobeaCynic said...

New Zealand novelists: I stand corrected. Now, is there a male NZ novelist of the stature of Katherine Mansfield?

In the late 20th century there was a cohort of prominent African-American women novelists. Some probably made it thru publishers' me-too-ism once the best had emerged, but some were great. A male A-M writer called Ishmael Reed claimed there was a White-led conspiracy to ensure only women made it among A-M writers. Regarding himself this is laughable; Reed was an unbelievably bad writer - I bought one of his books for 50c and it wasn't worth it. But there's a very fine A-M traditional novelist called Ernest J Gaines who never got the attention - is it possible he'd have done better with a feminine nom-de-plume?

Some commenters seem to be defining whole areas of creativity as not really creative because they don't necessarily require a very high IQ. Surely we should acknowledge that this is evidence that intelligence is mult-dimensional and it's not fully captured by IQ? I have been struck by how some artists who must have a high visual intelligence show an obviously low verbal intelligence.

bruce said...

Late thought:

A great original book by a woman -

Camille Paglia's 'Sexual Personae'.

Ray Sawhill said...

Severn: "It counts as creative if you're writing music, but not if you're just playing others compositions."

By your rule, it counts as "creative" if I write a lousy pop tune that goes nowhere, while what Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Maria Callas, Aretha Franklin, and Julie London did doesn't get to be called "creative."

If I were to write a lousy play that went nowhere, I'd get to call myself "creative" even though it (say) got performed only a dozen times and died within a year, while Bette Davis, Isabelle Adjani, Lillian Gish, Anna Magnani and Edwige Fenech -- although their work has touched millions, been influential, and has lasted for decades (in other words, although it has done much of what we expect "great art" to do) -- wouldn't qualify as "creative" forces.

Thousands of such examples could easily be come up with.

Let me suggest that if you're clinging to a rule that has thousands of exceptions to it, you're probably better off letting go of that rule.

Hey, take a look at this Julie London perf and please let me know why we shouldn't be thinking of her as "creative":

LINK

Anonymous said...

"Well, there ya go. Aren't children works of art for mothers, though?"

of course. Especially if she puts some time and thought into the project, as well as genes.

lesley said...

"Austen's principal characters are mostly middle class by the standards of their times. Furthermore, Emma, for example, has well-rounded characters among the genuinely non-well-to-do."

Fanny of Mansfield Park was a poor relation. When Fanny has to return home, the description of her homelife is startling. It could be a New Jeresy rowhouse when I was growing up--Dad sitting with the newspaper (candle instead of lamp), kids back from school running all over the place ignoring their newly home sister, mom preoccupied with getting older brother's duds ready for his leave taking to seamanship school, the slovely maid who delays with the tea forcing Fanny to order out for scones.
Jane could describe the "lower orders" when she had to. As far as her living conditions, she was one of them most of her life.

Anonymous said...

Off the top of my head, I can name (alphabetically) Susan Cooper, Ursula Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, and J.K. Rowling as well-known female fantasy authors.

Ray Sawhill said...

ITriedtobeaCynic writes: "is there a male NZ novelist of the stature of Katherine Mansfield?"

My experience with reading New Zealand novelists is about an inch deep, but I did run across one who struck me as world-class -- as "great," whatever the hell that means: Maurice Shadbolt. Barely known at all the States, but stirring, moving, fascinating, adventurous, rough-riding stuff. "Season of the Jew" -- a period thing about a Maori uprising against the British -- is the one to start with. Very masculine, and quite interesting about racial contrasts.

I wrote a little thing about Shadbolt here:

LINK

Could never get any editors to run it, though. No one else was enthusiastic about Maurice Shadbolt, so why should their publications cover him? Besides, who was I to have an opinion that ran against the Conventional Wisdom?

Which to my mind brings up a whole other topic: How much fabulous art is out there that you've never heard of (and never will hear of), because editors, critics and profs are ignorant, or resistant, or copycats? In my experience, ANY time I poked around a little corner of art history on my own (in other words, any time I bore down on a little corner of art history hard enough to get by the usual masterpieces and landmarks and do a little investigating of my own), I found work that I thought was great, in fact often greater than what the profs, critics, historians etc had told me about.

Another question: Let's face it, historians, critics, editors and such -- the people who write and publish the articles and books, and who teach the classes -- are a peculiar bunch. They're a lot more scholarly and intellectual than most people are, for one thing. To what extent has this shared temperament shaped our view of art history? Maybe the version of it they pass along is best understood as "a history of the art that intellectuals approve of"? Should we -- we non-scholar types -- maybe be a little more challenging of (and wary of) their tastes and their lists?

Ray Sawhill said...

ITriedtobeaCynic writes: "is there a male NZ novelist of the stature of Katherine Mansfield?"

My experience with reading New Zealand novelists is about an inch deep, but I did run across one who struck me as world-class -- as "great," whatever the hell that means: Maurice Shadbolt. Barely known at all the States, but stirring, moving, fascinating, adventurous, rough-riding stuff. "Season of the Jew" -- a period thing about a Maori uprising against the British -- is the one to start with. Very masculine, and quite interesting about racial contrasts.

I wrote a little thing about Shadbolt here:

LINK

Could never get any editors to run it, though. No one else was enthusiastic about Maurice Shadbolt, so why should their publications cover him? Besides, who was I to have an opinion that ran against the Conventional Wisdom?

Ray Sawhill said...

(cont.)

Which to my mind brings up a whole other topic: How much fabulous art is out there that you've never heard of (and never will hear of), because editors, critics and profs are ignorant, or resistant, or copycats?

In my experience, ANY time I poked around a little corner of art history on my own (in other words, any time I bore down on a little corner of art history hard enough to get by the usual masterpieces and landmarks and do a little investigating of my own), I found work that I thought was great, in fact often greater than what the profs, critics, historians etc had told me about.

Another question: Let's face it, historians, critics, editors and such -- the people who write and publish the articles and books, and who teach the classes -- are a peculiar bunch. They're a lot more scholarly and intellectual than most people are, for one thing. To what extent has this shared temperament shaped our view of art history? Maybe the version of it the intellectual class passes along is best understood as "a history of the art that intellectuals approve of"?

Should we -- we non-scholar types -- maybe be a little more challenging of (and wary of) their tastes and their lists? I certainly think so.

Anonymous said...

"Still, a discussion of creativity should be creative within the bounds of talking about actual people who actually lived. The list would have been different in 1800 even if one only discussed persons living before 1750."


Svigor said, "I missed the part where a cutoff date was laid down."

You are correct, no cutoff date. I mentioned 1750 to include the people we're still dicussing today and who would have been also known and considered impressive in 1800,
i.e. Leonardo DaVinci. There were other well known artists and writers known to people in 1800 who might now be considered less impressive, if not forgotten, but who were thought extraordinary at that time.

adsfasdfasdfs said...

"A great original book by a woman.
Camille Paglia's 'Sexual Personae'."

Not really. Maybe the style was original--but even there, she copped a lot from Pauline Kael--, everything she said had been said before. And she has only has a few tricks up her sleeves. Her book on Birds is for the birds.

Interestingly enough, Paglia was welcomed by many on the Right for her opposition to (radical)feminism and political correctness even if she was a libertarian-leftist and a lifelong Democrat. The Right thought her fatal blow against feminism would be good for its side.. and it was for awhile... but in the end, Paglia-ism turned out to be worse than feminism of
60s-80s. Pre-Paglia feminism tended to be puritanical, and because it was anti-male, it was also less sexual. This meant women bitching about 'sexism' and male chauvinism, but it also meant them having some manners and social decency. Ever since the rise of Pagalia-ism, a neo-feminism has encouraged women to act wild, sexually out of control, skanky, and spanky. This might have been okay if white males dominated the sexual culture but during this period, black males took over the sexual culture with sports dominance, hip hop butt-humping music, and Hollywood charisma. So, the neo-feminism made white women run into arms of black males with greater passion and abandon than old-time feminists would ever have done. Never forget Paglia loved Madonna, the inflatable sex doll for the NBA. And she's also a big supporter of Obama.

Also, I find it cowardly on Paglia's part that she always goes after WASPs but never after the Jews.

paglia sucks said...

The final effect of Paglia-ism.

http://www.youjizz.com/videos/tweety-and-her-husband-2179500.html

Sickening, aint it?

Has to be said...

Marie Curie's husband was also a physicist/chemist.


And perhaps more to the point, she did nothing very exceptional by male standards. She's notable chiefly for having been a female scientist.

I expect the majority of college grads in America could tell you she discovered the element radium. How many of them know the name Jöns Jacob Berzelius? Perhaps a few chemistry majors.


Actually Marie Curie is most famous for her work with radioactivity. This is physics, and, for some reason, physicists tend to be more well known than chemists. Above that, radioactivity was kind of important in the last 70 years, so it's not a great surprise that a pioneer in this field gets mentioned here and there.

Of course, being a woman hasn't hurt either.

Severn said...

In the late 20th century there was a cohort of prominent African-American women novelists.


The only criteria to be an African-American woman novelist are to be an African-American woman novelist. With an emphasis on the "African-American woman" part.

Not surprisingly, this particular niche is dominated by ... African-American women.

This cohort came to prominence because their works were assigned by every college in the land, as part of the whole "diversity" scam. The number of people who would otherwise have read "The Color Purple" would probably have numbered in the thousands.

Has to be said...

Just finished Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Gone with the Wind. I will never read another page by Jane.
Whereas the slaves in Gone with the Wind are important and well-rounded characters, the non-well-to-do in Jane are not.


What a weird criterion to judge a novel.

lesley said...

"Ever since the rise of Pagalia-ism, a neo-feminism has encouraged women to act wild, sexually out of control, skanky, and spanky."

in the words of Kramer (Seinfeld)
"oooo baby!"

thanx. I don't get a lot laughs on this blog.

asdfasdfasdf said...

"Which to my mind brings up a whole other topic: How much fabulous art is out there that you've never heard of (and never will hear of), because editors, critics and profs are ignorant, or resistant, or copycats?"

A more important question is how many naturally creative people are there who decide to take the safe road and become accountants instead.
I guess a creative person needs something more than creativity: he or she needs mad passion.

dfasdfasdfasdf said...

Severn: "It counts as creative if you're writing music, but not if you're just playing others compositions."

By your rule, it counts as "creative" if I write a lousy pop tune that goes nowhere, while what Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Maria Callas, Aretha Franklin, and Julie London did doesn't get to be called "creative."

---------

I think there are two kinds of performances: the mechanical and the interpretative(creative).
Much of classical music playing is mechanical, where the performer practices over and over to get every note right. There isn't much room for personal interpretation though I suppose expert listeners can tell the difference between two sonatas that are played almost identically. I would say a lot of Asian classical musicians, though very good, are mechanical than interpretative.
Jazz performance, however, is interpretative, thus far more creative. A Jazzer will take a tune and find new colors, shades, rhythms.

Same goes for singing. Some singers just focus on singing well; they are mechanical.
But some singers interpret the song in their own way, thus making it theirs. Elvis never composed a song but he took every song and made it his own through his style, charisma, and personality. Sinatra too. Andy Williams, OTOH, though a good singer, never had much in the way of personality.

Svigor said...

Off the top of my head, I can name (alphabetically) Susan Cooper, Ursula Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, and J.K. Rowling as well-known female fantasy authors.

Well-known, yes. I'm trust that folks who care about fantasy fiction know who Cooper is, even if I don't.

But fantasy's still a wasteland. I've read McCaffrey and Rowling, and that's not literature. It's not "great art" or an "incalculable contribution" to anything.

Tolkien's the only one who gave me goosebumps. IMO the rest of fantasy fiction's just light entertainment - the best stuff, that is. The rest is just shit. Though I should read more than the smidgen of Howard that I have before I exclude him.

Truth said...

"Whiskey this theme of yours that white women hate beta males doesn't fit...."

There is a lot more comfort, and a lot less need for personal responsibillity in asserting that "women hate all polite, middle-class white guys who obey the law" than there is in simply admitting "women think that I'm a loser."

"Never forget Paglia loved Madonna, the inflatable sex doll for the NBA."

And exactly why, old wise one, would Madonna go by this description when exactly ONE of the reputed lovers in her 25+ years of fame, has been an NBA player?

Anonymous said...

Off the top of my head, I can name (alphabetically) Susan Cooper, Ursula Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, and J.K. Rowling as well-known female fantasy authors.



That's wonderful. But being well-known and being creative are two different things. J.K. Rowling, for instance, can't seriously be compared to Tolkien in the creativity sweepstakes.

Take your figures out of the narrow niche of "female fantasy authors" and put them into the "fantasy authors" category and they look pretty ordinary.

Severn said...

By your rule, it counts as "creative" if I write a lousy pop tune that goes nowhere, while what Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Maria Callas, Aretha Franklin, and Julie London did doesn't get to be called "creative.



What's your point? The person writing the "lousy pop tune" is engaging in creative activity. Doing a poor job of it, perhaps, but still engaging in creative activity.

Yo-Yo Ma performing the prelude from Bach´s Cello Suite No.1 sounds a heck of a lot better than that lousy pop tune. The fact remains that the lousy pop tune writer is the one engaging in creative activity, and not Yo-Yo Ma.

Bach, of course, engaged in some very high quality creative activity in writing that Cello Suite. But contrary to popular belief, people who perform music are much more technicians than artists.

Severn said...

If I were to write a lousy play that went nowhere, I'd get to call myself "creative" even though it (say) got performed only a dozen times and died within a year, while Bette Davis, Isabelle Adjani, Lillian Gish, Anna Magnani and Edwige Fenech -- although their work has touched millions, been influential, and has lasted for decades (in other words, although it has done much of what we expect "great art" to do) -- wouldn't qualify as "creative" forces.



Well, yeah. That's because "touching millions" and "being influential" is not the same thing as being creative.

Lady Diana Spencer was "influential" and "touched millions". So were Mother Theresa and Pope John Paul II.

Of course there is some degree of creativity involved in being an actor but its the same limited degree which is involved in most human activity, from preparing a meal to constructing an apartment building.

Anonymous said...

Which to my mind brings up a whole other topic: How much fabulous art is out there that you've never heard of (and never will hear of), because editors, critics and profs are ignorant, or resistant, or copycats?

SO MUCH. There is SO MUCH out there.

Margaret Kennedy
Stella Gibbons (other than her famous novel, Cold Comfort Farm)
Noel Streatfield's adult fiction
R. A. Lafferty
Edward Hannibal

totally forgotten. available for pennies.

Anonymous said...

In the sciences, which I'm more familiar with, the greatest women tended to have a few strong male supports.

Emmy Noether, generally agreed to be the most influential female mathematician of all time (and among the greatest mathematicians in general) was the daughter of a mathematician, and also had the professional support of David Hilbert, who persuaded her colleagues to grant her a faculty position.

Sonia Kovalevskaya (another female mathematician and the first woman in Europe to earn a doctorate) was helped by her professional relationship with Weierstrass.

Of course, Liese Meitner had a scientist husband (Otto Hahn) with whom she collaborated, and Marie Curie was famously part of a scientist couple.

The annals of women scientists are full of examples of daughters of scientists, wives of scientists, and protegees of scientists. It helps a lot -- particularly as we go back farther in the past, when there were more institutional obstacles.