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The extraordinary sale of the fish vase once again called into question how and why we value art. It made headlines because it was, by most people's reckoning, an exorbitant amount of money for a single object, no matter how beautiful. "Could it really be worth so much?" everyone inevitably asked. One could ask the same about much of Western contemporary art -- an animal suspended in formaldehyde, an enormous monochromatic canvas, a neon sign -- that regularly goes for millions. In another recent Times article, this one about possible art forgeries sold through an esteemed New York gallery, comments took on two major strains (aside from the outpouring of schadenfreude that extremely rich people were duped out of millions): the first was, who-cares-if-it's-by-the-stated-artist-or-someone-pretending-to-be-that-artist-isn't-it-enough-that-you-still-have-a-pretty-picture? The second refrain was the tiresome "Big deal, I could've done that" (or worse, "My ten-year-old could've done that"). Well, you didn't.
Bonnie B. Lee
The books I want to read, according to the New York Public Library website, are kept in a “locked cage.” I wonder what that might mean. Maybe someone with hollow eyes will take me down into a basement crypt, maybe there will be a dog with three heads, and since I can’t cut off all three of its heads, I’ll have to trick it into going to some other part of the library. The books are about how I can connect my pituitary gland to my pineal gland with a thread of golden light and experience bliss and the end of the illusion of separation from infinity, all without any LSD or any real effort, and really fast. I sit in the Rose Reading Room staring at the beautiful ceiling until my number comes up, and then the books come out with slips of paper in them saying I’m not allowed to look at them unsupervised, and a bored attendant acting like he’s working at an airport Sbarro’s hands them all over and lets me take them away. The pages are so fragile and brittle it’s clear I shouldn’t be touching them.
Nowhere is the difference between Nabokov’s fixations and Shakespeare’s receptivity more apparent than in their depictions of sex and eroticism. Artistically Shakespeare is as responsive to different possibilities of sexuality and desire as Nabokov is restricted. Whenever Kinbote’s homosexuality comes up in Pale Fire, you can feel Nabokov’s distaste for it. He can’t see Kinbote’s predilections as anything but a cheap running joke. A certain refined groove of heterosexual passion is sublime for Nabokov. Everything outside that groove is absurd. With Shakespeare, on the other hand, you have the sense he can be turned on by almost anything.
Great photographers open up a territory and make it theirs. Soth’s America is a place where the Declaration of Independence gets taken literally, where suspicion of tyranny shades into paranoia and self-reliance is an absolute law. It’s a hidden continent, a hive of self-contained undergrounds, decentered and almost undetectable. Nonetheless, it has its own ethos and history. Its modern-day heroes tend to be misfit criminals like the Unabomber, fugitives like Eric Rudolph, or cultists like the Branch Davidians.
"I defy any writer to move to Paris and not be posing like Hemingway in a café within the first few months. I had that kind of Lost Generation love when I first moved to Paris. Hanging out in cafés and pretending to be a writer like Hemingway actually did make me a writer. I wouldn't necessarily have self-identified as a writer before I studied abroad in Paris. I was more of a reader than a writer. But I guess if you pretend to do something for a while, you realize that, oh, wow, that was just a way to do get to something that I guess I secretly wanted to do."
"Ossip: The Cold War was my parents' heyday, and so I think it has always had a certain sexiness for me, along with a dark underbelly. (And I'm not the only one; look at Mad Men.) When I think about where my book started, I go right back to the little flagstone "foyer" inside the front door of our suburban ranch house where my parents kept a small bookshelf with vintage titles. I'd read anything I could get my hands on, and even better if I didn't understand it. Some of the poems in my book springboard directly from that oblivious but fascinated reading. The repressions of that era (and of my parents), and what lay underneath all that repression, obsessed me."
"The right sort of bad movie can be as engaging in its failure as good movies are in their successes. (Adam Sandler movies, for example, fail on completely obvious levels; Jonah Hex is a much deeper quagmire of questionable creative decisions.) There are so many things that can go wrong in a movie that, though they seem small, can knock the whole mechanism off its axis: out-of-place acting, execrable dialogue, jarring edits, appalling subtext, bizarre scoring, palpable lack of effect. Some combinations of flaws can make a movie perfect to laugh at unabashedly; some flaws can, often inexplicably, make a movie more interesting than it would have been if it had been more successful in the technicalities."
Geoffrey H. Goodwin