The Charm of the Ninth Art
/ El encanto del noveno arte

It’s been a while since the distinction between high and low culture has lost its power of universal persuasion. One need look no further than our intelligentsia who, once strict in their tastes, can no longer help but become giddy when discussing soccer or confessing a weakness for 24 or Fringe. Murakami reads Castaneda, claims to be a fan of the Lost and writes a fable about Kafka. Similarly, Savater holds discourse on Bart Simpson and Oprah might be in love with Bolaño, and no one bats an eye. What does all this mean? As recently as the 1980s, Finkielkraut mourned the unimaginable equating of a pair of designer boots with the complete works of Shakespeare. Nearly two decades later, George Steiner raised eyebrows with a diagnosis that coming from anyone else, would have sounded cynical, but uttered by him it simply sounded bitter: Culture is never completely innocent or positive. This issue of Literal is an attempt to approach this dilemma, if one exists, using one of the most favored products of the mass-media culture: comics.