Thursday, 14 February 2013

A warm fog of acceptable feeling


A thought for Valentine’s Day …

‘That’s how sentimentality works, replacing particularity with a warm fog of acceptable feeling, the difficult exact stuff of individual character with the vagueness of convention. Sentimental assertions are always a form of detachment; they confront the acute, terrible awareness of individual pain, the sharp particularity of loss or the fierce individuality of passion with the dulling, “universal” certainty of platitude …

The oversweetened surface of the sentimental exists in order to protect its maker, as well as the audience, from anger. At the beautiful image refusing to hold, at the tenderness we bring to the objects of the world – our eagerness to love, make home, build connection, trust the other – how all of that’s so readily swept away. Sentimental images of children and of animals, soppy representations of love - they are fuelled, in truth, by their opposites, by a terrible human rage that nothing stays. The greeting card verse, the airbrushed rainbow, the sweet puppy face on the fleecy pink sweatshirt – these images do not honour the world as it is, in its complexity and individuality, but distort things in apparent service of a warm embrace … in this way, the sentimental represents a rage against individuality, the singular, the irreplaceable.’

Mark Doty, Dog Years (London: HarperCollins, 2007), pp. 13-15.

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