Marjorie's response to my "the Namesake" post brought up a discussion I have had time and time again. Does having "sophisticated" taste mean you can't accept something that doesn't match your standard of taste. I used to have a similar discussion with a friend who was now has a Ph.D. in Art History. She believed that not all art is meant to be enjoyed by all people. I think this is absolute bullshit or maybe it's just too Euro, where there is "high art" and everything else, for who I am or something. Culturally, I come from a tradition of functional art...you creatively make things that are useful and therefore understandable...you own a table but that table has flourishes and cuts and designs and symmetry that make it aesthetically appealing. On the other hand, I spent a lot of time as a musical snob. Then I grew up.
While I was in my blues and jazz periods no one could tell me what was good because I knew. I knew that deep in my being I knew what was good music or quality music. In my late 20s, early 30s I grew out of that. Somewhere I discovered that if it (the art) came from the soul of the creator, made with some level of creative inspiration and/or skill, and it touched you that was all that was needed. I soon started to realize it was that way with everything; architecture, music, photography, music, religion, and even politics. I assume that all of us know right from wrong and most of us work to increase the right and/or decrease the wrong. (I'm not that naive, I know it doesn't work this way but I still believe this to be the foundation of human existence.) Art is a manifestation of our existence. Yes, there are bastardizations and compromised ethics but for the most part when someone pulls together a portrait of life as multifaceted, rich, and as engaging as Jhumpa Lairi did in "The Namesake" they have created a work of art.
I recognize many of the aspects of the picture she paints, I have spoken with Indian immigrants (about the same age as Gogol) who also recognize so much of the book. On top of that the characters and situations caused me and others, I imagine many others, to emote, to honestly feel for the characters. Again, this is something that is usually associated with all forms of art. You hear of people weeping in front of Mona Lisa or under the Sistine Chapel. I have personally experienced fear and repulsion while looking at paintings from Goya's "Dark Period". Of course, I cannot count the emotional changes I have experienced during a show by Derek Trucks or Alejandro Escovedo or in the Gospel Tent at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest. I guess my bottom line is that art means nothing if it doesn't appeal emotionally and aesthetically. And it is always a matter of personal choice and social/cultural training.
Just because you think its crap doesn't mean ANYBODY else does, just because you think its great doesn't mean ANYBODY else does or should, for that matter.