We expect artists, at least in extremis, to admit if not wallow in their humanity. But Mr. Albee stands aloof from all that. He is amazed that people are more interested in Beethoven’s deafness than in Beethoven’s music, and troubled by the pervasive idea that one explains the other. Which is not to say his writing is unaffected by his emotions. It’s just that there’s a kind of air-lock system keeping the worlds separate. Even loss must stand in a queue.
“Wait until the next play,” Mr. Albee said. “I know it’s going to cover a great deal of what we’ve been talking about. It’s not a delayed reaction. It’s a reaction that’s coming at the proper time, when I can handle it with better equanimity. I keep saying that people should be objective enough to write a play in praise of Hitler. Yes, I bet I would be able to do that.”
What I question is the value or even existence of such pure objectivity. Should a writer, or could a writer, divorce his or her own values or perspectives from his or her play? Is the choice of topic, even, a measure of subjectivity? By deciding, for example, to write about the Bush Administration, is a writer not making a subjective choice about what is important to expose or explore?
Removing the question of choice of topic, though, one might ask if objectivity is even the paramount virtue in a day and age when a false sense of balance seems to pervade all other forms of expression. Watching CNN will leave anyone with the impression that Global Warming is debatable; the result of a focus on balance as opposed to fact. Perhaps when all areas seem gray, it's important for artists to have a specific perspective from which to speak. Or perhaps balance and objectivity are entirely different animals.
The flip-side is, of course, that by remaining objective, more perspectives are able to be presented in any given text. Shakespeare, for example, doesn't seem particularly in love with Hamlet... he simply presents a rich patchwork of characters centered around him, and allows us to watch the story unfold without a value placed from the writer on the proceedings. That has lent gravity and depth to myriad interpretations, and given the play itself a life that it never could have achieved if it had presented, by its end, a sort of lesson.
Perhaps the question here is one of fact. Facts do exist (despite all evidence to the contrary) and there is a reason that they seem so resisted by political forces. Facts create both objectivity and perspective. The fact of climate change, for example, can only be seen with objectivity. That objectivity leads, inevitably, to a conclusion. Maybe our addiction to subjectivity, opinion, is a weakness of discourse.
Human nature, though, isn't something that easily lends itself to fact. Or mathematics. Or much objectivity. Perhaps the hardest part of playwrighting is wrestling with that particular Angel... how hard it is to resist loving or hating or siding with or siding against our characters. How hard it is to remain objective in so emotional a landscape.