Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The 20th Century's Greatest Hits

Picked this up at a used book sale once and am finally getting to it and an odd little book it is. Paul Williams makes a list of what he considers the top forty artistic achievements of the last century. Some of them are what you'd expect ULYSSES by James Joyce, GRAVITY"S RAINBOW by Pynchon, ON THE ROAD by Kerouac, but most of them are quirky choices such as Krazy Kat Sunday page, "Horses" by Patti Smith, the directing and musical score for Leone's "For a Few Dollars More," WINNIE the POOH by A. A. Milne, "Sister Ray" by the Velvet Underground, "The Human Declaration of Rights" by Eleanor Roosevelt. Several paintings make his cut: Dance by Henri Matisse and Girl Before a Mirror by Picasso. Music's represented by Dylan (Renaldo and Clara) The Beach Boys (Pet Sounds) the Beatles (Things We Said Today) the Rolling Stones (Now!), Coltrane (Impressions Side 1)Hank Williams' Lost Highway are on there. Movies include "Gandhi," "Two-Lane Blacktop," and "Kundun" Well, there's more, but you get the idea. Each choice gets an essay to explain it.

What are some of the works of art you'd include on your 20th Century's Top Forty?

There's no television on his list, but I might include "Homicide: Life on the Streets" on mine. Too early for "The Wire."

14 comments:

Todd Mason said...

Actually, most of those choices you enumerate aren't atypical of the current hipster consensus, very much including Krazy Kat but perhaps the Eleanor Roosevelt contribution a little less...and "Things We Said Today" might well be one of the better songs ever made up in a few minutes, as I remember Lennon and McCartney's memory of its composition. And Ennio Morricone is that spaghet' western composer, among so much more since. THE WIRE is more a 21st Century monument in the Common Era.

Demotic division: Gustav Holst, THE PLANETS--aside from its own merits, film scoring composers have mined this work more than any other single composition I can think of.

Pong. The first videogame that everyone played. But, then, even the pinball machine in its electric version is a 20C hit.

More to come.

Todd Mason said...

I assume this is the same Paul Williams who founded CRAWDADDY and is currently responsible for The Sturgeon Project, the republication of the complete short fiction of Theodore Sturgeon, and not one of the handful of other mildly famous Paul Williams...

pattinase (abbott) said...

Oh, Pong is a very good one, Todd. I knew I could count on you for an original choice. I'll have to look him up. Not sure.

Chuck said...

The Texaco Comedy Hour hosted by Milton Berl. The precursor to SNL.

On a more serious note, hard to believe that he left out E=MC2. I guess too scientific to be considered art, but then isn't science art? Let's not go there.

pattinase (abbott) said...

You are absolutely right. What could be purer art than a mathematical equation of that magnitude.

Todd Mason said...

Well, no, science isn't art, nor vice verse...pretty much by definition.... But they are both about seeking truth, and doing so in intereting ways.

However, technology certainly is frequently tied up with art, or at least craft.

Todd Mason said...

Art is about presenting a personal vision. Science is about present an objective observation and explanation. Neither is ever completely successful in this, being human endeavors. But, enough of Logical Positivism 101.

And mathematics is a language...

Todd Mason said...

It must be getting toward the end of the day, as I can no longer spell while typing...apologies.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think science, beautifully complex, true and exact, is art. Art's most noble form is in presenting truth.
Okay, so I had a glass of wine before coming here.

Todd Mason said...

Yeah, but...art is about subjective truth. The artist's truth that might well resonate with the audience. Science is about what appears to be objectively true. This is a distinction with a very great difference. Nothing is objectively heartbreaking, nothing subjectively flouride. One could insist otherwise, I suppose.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Right here in Philadelphia, we have one of the best paintings by the greatest Western painter since Rembrandt and Velasquez, a late Mont Ste.-Victoire by Cezanne.
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pattinase (abbott) said...

Picking a piece of art or two to include would be the toughest for me.
Our knowledge of books, movies and music is more readily acquired than art, I think.

Todd Mason said...

The matter of selecting just one example of everything is trying, indeed, or eve a top ten.

Classes of things, such as roadside brotosaurus statues, is somewhat easier.

pattinase (abbott) said...

He didn't really approach it as one of everything. He has a lot of music, for instance.