--From an NPR piece on the Corcoran Gallery of Art exhibit of the work of war photographer David "Chim" Seymour.
John Gardner talks about this a bit in On Becoming a Novelist, the best book about learning to observe the world that I know of. (It's not a book on writing; it's a book on looking.) About how harshness--what he calls the disPolyanna fantasy--isn't any more honest than sentimentality.
Okay, specifically, because I feel like it, I'm going to talk about this a little bit more. Cynicism is fashionable, and stylish, and easy. It's why so many of us are, in fact, cynical in high school. (That, I think, and some lingering traces of childhood sociopathy, and the human tendency to assume that everybody else is much like we are. As we grow older, and our motivations become more complex--and often less selfish--our acceptance of cynicism is colored. So is our idealism. They are not mutually contradictory values.)
Cynicism is also, in its own way, just as shallow and false as sentimentality. Edginess is facile. It is a simplification, and as such, eventually serves as a sort of Teflon armor.
Real emotion, real existence--conversely--is complex and sticky and gets down into your gut and up your throat. And thus so must real art be.
It's not something you can turn aside with a stylish flip of the hand, and it's not something that confirms either the sweet or the bitter preconceptions, but rather marries them with other, disparate elements.
It's kind of like cooking, really. Baklava goes better with coffee than with a milk shake, yanno?