What separates the atemporal pleiad of creators of texts from the general run of writers acclaimed by critics and applauded by the public at large, is the fact they perceive what the latter reckon buzzes with life to be either worked out or dead. The innovative author insensitive to the applause and reproaches of his contemporaries, knows he is surrounded by colleagues who are dead–whatever fuss these people make accumulating honours and prizes and aspiring, in the manner of some second-rate academics, to the glory of immortality.
Juan Goytisolo, “To Read or to Re-Read”
Geniuses have a rough time of it, because geniuses are not all equal. First come your run-of-the-mill and middling geniuses, that is, of the third order, whose minds are unable to go much beyond the horizon of their times. They are often recognized and even come into money and fame. The geniuses of the second order are already too difficult for their contemporaries and therefore fare worse. Nonetheless, recognition awaits the geniuses of the second order, in the form of a triumph beyond the grave. In addition, there exist, for there must exist, geniuses of the highest category. The intermediate types are discovered by either the succeeding generation or by some later one; the geniuses of the first order are never known–not by anyone, not in life, not after death. For they are creators of truths so unprecedented, purveyors of proposals so revolutionary, that not a soul is capable of making head or tail of them. Therefore, permanent obscurity constitutes the normal lot of the Geniuses of the Highest Class.
Stanislaw Lem, “Odysseus of Ithaca”
Both of these quotes dance around the word “crank,” though I do think of it as appealing to a particularly American self-consciousness. But Bruce Murray points out about Karlheinz Stockhausen: “Think he’s zealous crank!” (Frighteningly, “kilohertz can shake sun” is also appropriate.)
More about these matters soon….