In the last couple of weeks I’ve seen these two cartoons about two of my favourite artists, one an author and one a musician. It got me thinking. Is the fact that the common ideas underpinning their works can be so easily distilled a sign of weakness, or is it a sign of an artist that has discovered their style? The majority of the great artists can easily be parodied and so maybe this is no bad thing. This is a sign of success and recognition. Perhaps parody and mockery are the mark of having made it.
I like Haruki Murakami. I really do. Well, except for a really duff patch, I really do. If Murakami had been an indie band in the eighties or nineties I suspect I would have preferred his Peel Sessions rather than his later albums. Anyway, this cartoon from Grant Snider in the New York Times has his common memes nailed.
I also really like Tom Waits. In a similar vein, this cartoon from the rather excellent Tom Gauld in the Guardian has Waits’ commonly recognised themes clearly stated. Having said that, the cartoon doesn’t and can’t show Waits’ musical evolution. But that’s not important. The common themes are there for us and we all get the joke.
Maybe it’s enough that we can recognise a person’s “signature”. For example, I can recognise Tom Gauld’s style immediately and he’s the one doing the parody. Maybe as people we demand the recognition. If a person, artist or not, lacks a fingerprint, a signature or a style, we struggle to identify and pin them down. Without some degree of being fixed we can’t embrace them so easily or, perhaps, even at all.