Challenging Art – Revisiting

Challenging art can be tough to make your way through.

We’ve all been there, trying to make our way through challenging art. Have you tried to watch a film that was loved by a select few for how challenging it was? Have you tried to get into a band that others say are an acquired taste and yet struggled find anything special? How many times have you tried to read a book considered a classic, only to put it down?

Challenging Art

I’ll get through you one day…I’ll show you James!

There is no shame in putting something down that is challenging. You don’t NEED to understand it right at this very moment. Perhaps you never will. Perhaps you will never revisit it again in the rest of your days. There may come a day, however, when the challenging art just clicks.

I have this vivid image of making my way through Ulysses in my mind.

One of these days, whether this year, 5 years, 17 years, 36, or 64 years from now, I will sit down and read Ulysses by James Joyce. It will click for me, and I’ll be able to make my way through this challenging work of art. Perhaps I’ll try Gravity’s Rainbow again, and instead of reading about 60 pages realizing I have no clue what is going on, I’ll be able to see why it’s considered one the classic works of literature in the 20th century.

When it comes to challenging art, using supplementary sources and guides can greatly enhance challenging art.

I’m a diehard fan of A Song of Ice and Fire. The world that George RR Martin has created is incredibly complex and phenomenal, and the show, while (mostly) an excellent adaptation, only scratches the surface of the complexity and nuances that the books have. With many warring factions and individuals, all with their own nefarious goals and outlooks, the books are incredibly layered with complex motivations and relationships between characters.

While challenging works, the fourth (A Feast for Crows) and fifth (A Dance with Dragons) are where I feel comfortable with using the term “challenging art”. The first three books were well constructed, building up to a climax of the third book that saw an incredible amount of action and consequences take place. The fourth and fifth book, on the other hand, are more about the aftermath of all these actions, and a calm before the storm, before the third act of this tale. Readers such as myself were disappointed the first time around that these books decided to focus on different areas of the world that we had little knowledge of prior, anxiously waiting to learn what has happened with fan favorites, and characters that we have been with since the beginning.

Challenging Art

So George…about the next book…

After reading the first three, A Feast for Crows felt like a chore to get through. There were many more characters introduced and it was hard to keep track of things. I didn’t read the fifth book for some time afterwards. Lat summer, I decided to reread the series, and finally read the fifth book. Second time around? I came to have a much greater appreciation of A Feast for Crows, and A Dance with Dragons, for the challenging art that they are.

A common complaint is that nothing happens in these books. That could not be further from the truth. A large portion of criticism goes towards the story of Daenerys. People are waiting for her to leave and head west, but instead, she waits and rules. Instead of conquering, she has to deal with enemies at her gates, a shadow force within her city, and politicians that she doesn’t know who to trust. I can get why people are impatient, but in those chapters, we see the struggles that she faces within herself and those around her. We’re introduced to other characters and factions that we are not overly familiar with, but we begin to see their perspectives and how it adds to the world. There is plenty of dramatic irony, where we the reader are aware of many things that they are not.

Reading supplementary material for these two novels helped me gain a far greater appreciation for the world that George RR Martin has built. Sources like Untansling the Meereenese Knot and the subreddit for ASOIAF has been extremely beneficial in gaining a better understanding of the world, and future predictions of what is to come.

Mulholland Drive, perhaps my favorite film besides Apocalypse Now, is a challenging work of art that I have revisited time and time again. First time around? Loved it, but had little idea of what happened. After several rematches and making my way through many online guides, I find it to be a pretty straightforward story.

Challenging Art

Ah, to watch this for the first time again…

Just because you don’t understand something now, it doesn’t mean you won’t later.

For years, Ulysses has been considered one of the most important works of modern literature. Many have tried (such as myself), and have failed to get through it (such as myself). It’s a work of challenging art that some may try once, and never try again. It’s not something to force, but it’s worth seeking out again. If so much praise has been heaped upon it, surely it must be worth checking out, despite the complexity and challenges you will face.