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September 29, 2007

Good stuff

  • Julian Barnes on French anarchist-wit Felix Feneon by way of Luc Sante. Gotta love an art critic who saw Les demoiselles d'Avignon, turned to Picasso and told him, "You should stick to caricature."

  • Check out Dushko Petrovich's smart slide show and history of the decline and fall (and possible small rebound) of public sculpture.

    FOLLOW-UP: Glenn Weiss of Aesthetic Grounds took book/daddy to task for touting this public sculpture video essay, asking why I liked it. Our exchange even brought in Mr. Petrovich.

  • Yes, and they were far wittier than Bret Easton Ellis or Tama Janowitz: In the '20s, Britain's Bright Young People invented a new genre: the party novel:

    "Looking back on his hot youth from the debatable lands of the early 1960s, Waugh declared that 'there was between the wars a society, cosmopolitan, sympathetic to the arts, well-mannered, above all ornamental even in rather bizarre ways, which for want of a better description the newspapers called 'High Bohemia'" -- [this was] characterised in the public imagination by its exuberant parties and riotous practical joking - impersonation parties, circus parties, mock weddings and elaborately staged 'Stunts.'"

  • The defensive gestures of the memoir writer:

    "The hand-at-the-face gesture is what one might call the inevitable fate of the fly-on-the-wall writer. For Blake [Moirrison, author of When Did You Last See Your Father?], it reached an unusual level of intensity that night, because his book had made it to the big screen, and he was watching the outcome with an audience of people that he mostly knew. But every memoir writer of any sensitivity at all must surely identify with the defensive gesture. It is the deeply ambivalent reaction of the artist who both wants to share his private experience with an audience, and yet paradoxically - but genuinely - recoils from it at the same time."

  • A horrific metaphor for an entire system and what it did to a country: The Gulag victim had been so badly damaged -- yet lived -- that her autopsy eventually found her heart had been beaten out of place. A review of Orlando Figes' history of private life in Stalinist Russia: The Whisperers, due to be published in America in November.

  • Carlin Romano comes out strongly and sensibly in favor of more book reviews. He echoes a point book/daddy has made several times:

    "Benighted managers, we think, fail to notice that the five newspapers with the most coverage and staff devoted to books - USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post - are also the five newspapers with the highest circulations in the country.

    Newspaper managers, or the marketing consultants they hire, don't usually break out the figures that way, but they should.

    The five papers mentioned all recognize that the most important task in attracting advertising is not hunting for advertisers to take ads, or expecting businesses connected to every sector of editorial content to buy advertising to support that space (i.e., book publishers should buy ads to support book pages, sports teams to support the sports section).

    The trick is drawing the kind of readers, and enough of them, to one's newspaper that advertisers (especially high-rollers) desperately want to reach. All five papers above understand that book coverage, like all coverage of what smart, successful sorts do, draws society's most highly educated, likely-to-buy readers, a group that also skews wealthy."

    Posted by jweeks at September 29, 2007 12:59 PM

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