Meanness in art is cheap and easy. In fact, all forms of meanness, sarcasm and derision, which I call “snark,” attract negative attention just like any other form of sensationalism does. Even more important, there is also a significant danger in snark. It is the danger that comes with equating one’s life and art in a romantic way. Snarky people make snarky art. The problem arises when the art begins to justify the lifestyle.
Galway Kinnell, in his most recent book of poems, gave a brilliant excoriation of what Shelley deemed “radiant desire,” in pursuit of which Shelley left a wake of human wreckage which Kinnell details, lamenting its similarity to his own dabbling in debauchery, in the poem simply titled “Shelley.” Bottom line: the art does not justify the man.
I am not necessarily advocating responsibility in art. I am advocating responsibility in life. Making art is only a subset of human experience; any idealistic notion otherwise is simply narcissistic. Most of the arguments for why being screwed up and snarky does not necessarily make you a better artist run along parallel lines to the argumentation for why using drugs does not necessarily make you a better artist.