This letter to the editor of The New York Times Book Review by the writer David Shield is a protest against a certain city-centric kind of writing, but it is also compelling spiritual advice.
In The Times’s Arts & Leisure section the same day, in a profile of the painter Wayne Thiebaud, Patricia Leigh Brown’s first sentence reads, “Many people would consider State Highway 160 to be a why-bother sort of a landscape, an isolated and unremarkable byway atop a levee along the Sacramento River in which the lone landmarks include a ramshackle bait and tackle shop and rusty pipes from an old sugar beet factory.” Perhaps it’s time to retire this quaint gesture — the writer’s shock that an artist has found matter other than in the agreed-upon precincts. Life is interesting all over. Every life, properly understood, is compelling. Anyone aspiring to be an artist knows there’s no such thing as why-bother or nothing-to-see.