COLUMNS

  • Books

    Art Spiegelman’s Maus: A Survivor’s Tale.

    Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, by Art Spiegelman. New York: Pantheon Books, 1986, 159 pp.

    WHAT’S STRANGE ISN’T THAT Art Spiegelman’s Maus has received so much critical acclaim since its publication. Rather, it’s that the critics (with a few exceptions) seem so unprepared for the idea that a comic can convey so complex a narrative about a subject whose unaccountability has made it the most difficult ethical problem of the 20th century. Historians, psychoanalysts, artists, writers, filmmakers, and many others have all struggled with it. I am referring to the Holocaust.

    The comic form always involves, to

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  • Books

    An excerpt from G. Craig Houston’s New Translation Of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Rodin And Other Prose Pieces

    The following passages are prepublication extracts from three forthcoming books. The first is a group of essays by Rainer Maria Rilke, including a series of writings on Auguste Rodin, newly translated by G. Craig Houston. It will be published under the title Rodin and Other Prose Pieces by Quartet Books/Salem House Publishers, of Topsfield, Mass., in March. A 167-page paperback, it will contain 16 black-and-white illustrations. (©Ausgewãhlte Werke II, Insel Verlag, 1948).

    RODIN WAS SOLITARY BEFORE he became famous. And Fame, when it came, made him if anything still more solitary. For Fame, after

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  • Books

    An excerpt from Ann Beattie’s Alex Katz by Ann Beattie

    Ann Beattie’s Alex Katz by Ann Beattie will be published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, in March, at 92 pages, with 26 color illustrations.

    It is difficult to look at some of Katz’s paintings and not imagine that there must have been times when his powers of observation pained him. Though we are more likely to think of a painter such as Eric Fischl, who seems to be peeking at his subjects enacting something that is obviously—or potentially—shocking, and who transforms ordinary surroundings into contextual definitions of people as a social interpreter, Katz has—in a naturalistic, yet stylized

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  • Books

    An excerpt from Julian Schnabel’s C.V.J.

    Julian Schnabel’s C.V.J. (the book’s working title) will be published by Random House in the fall of 1987.

    November 1981, Amsterdam.

    I saw a Van Gogh drawing of his girlfriend’s mother standing in a back yard in The Hague. It was made in 1882. It has a grayish-purple wash on it. There’s a peculiar yet familiar light in it. It made me feel like I was standing on Houston Street in late November, the temperature had just changed; I didn’t have a scarf; a friend had canceled a dinner appointment with me. I had nowhere to go. I felt the air go through me. That drawing made me feel like I was already

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  • Books

    David Byrne’s True Stories and Nan Goldin’s Ballad of Sexual Dependency.

    David Byrne, True Stories (New York: Harmondsworth, England; Victoria, Australia; Markham, Canada; and Auckland, New Zealand: Penguin Books, 1986), 191 pages.

    Nan Goldin, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (New York: Aperture distributed by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1986), 144 pages.

    A FLAMBOYANT GESTURE OF ART that takes place in time—performance film, video—is its vanishing act, it disappearance once the show’s over. Such work can, of course, be documented, and countless books have postulated theory about it, described its practice, and worked textually and visually as collections of artifacts of

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  • Books

    Umberto Eco

    Umberto Eco, Travels in Hyperreality trans. William Weaver (San Diego, New York, and London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986), 307 pages.

    CONCERNED WITH REINCARNATIONS, SECOND GUESSES, unreasonable facsimiles, aftereffects, and mimicries, Umberto Eco is appropriately named. This professional distinguisher of signs from their signifieds readily admits that he practices semiotics, but the practice shouldn’t frighten anyone and he would still do it “if it were called something else” In this collection of essays he originally wrote for an Italian newspaper and magazine public, Eco gets involved with

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  • Slant

    Vienna and Her Sisters. A parable, with strings.

    FOR A LONG TIME, I have gone to bed late, and, not sleeping the sleep of reason, have produced no monsters. Where I awake each day, though, is another matter. I awake in a place that supposedly no longer exists. Robert Musil, in The Man Without Qualities (1930), calls this place Kakania, and it is a place where

    the Superman was adored, and the Subman was adored; health and the sun were worshipped, and the delicacy of consumptive girls was worshipped; people were enthusiastic hero-worshippers and enthusiastic adherents of the social creed of the Man in the Street; one had faith and one was skeptical,

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  • Books

    Inside the White Cube.

    WRITING ABOUT YOUR PAST IS the closest you get to coming back from the dead. You assume a false superiority over your previous self, who did all the work. So looking back at these articles, now revived between their own pasteboard, what do I have to add? A great deal.

    In the past ten years so much has been buried as if it never happened. Art does not progress by having a good memory. And New York is the locus of some radical forgetting. You can reinvent the past, suitably disguised, if no one remembers it. Thus is originality, that patented fetish of the self, defined. What has been buried? One

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  • Slant

    success and Pittsburgh's 1985 Carnegie International.

    PITTSBURGH’S 1985 CARNEGIE INTERNATIONAL was a jewel of a show, a ritzy display of contemporary art with all the “quality” that one could hope for. This was the exhibition with which the Museum of Modern Art, New York, should have reopened after its renovation in 1984, rather than the halfhearted grab bag of mixed goods with which it tried to show that, contrary to critical opinion, it really was keeping up with contemporary art. The Carnegie International gave short shrift to distinctions between the provincial and the cosmopolitan, the national and the international. The art had its ups and

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  • Books

    Moholy-Nagy

    Krisztina Passuth, Moholy-Nagy trans. from Hungarian by Eva Grusz, Judy Szöllosy, and Laszlo Baránzky Jób, and from the German by Mátyás Esterházy; trans. revised by Kenneth McRobbie and Ilona Jánosi (London and New York: Thames and Hudson, Ltd., 1985), 448 pages, 208 black and white and 44 color illustrations.

    Na zdorovye (To your health) to Thames and Hudson for publishing a series of major monographs on early-20th century Eastern European avant-garde artists: El Lissitzky, Kasimir Malevich, Alexander Rodchenko, and now László Moholy-Nagy. At a time when publishing dollars are allotted cautiously,

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  • Books

    Ian Hamilton Finlay: A Visual Primer

    Yves Abrioux, Ian Hamilton Finlay: A Visual Primer (Edinburgh: Reaktion Books, 12 Dublin Street, Edinburgh EH1 3PP, 1985), 248 pages, over 370 illustrations, 65 in full color, 19 in two-color.

    Although Ian Hamilton Finlay was 60 last year, his work is only now becoming well-known outside a relatively restricted group of admirers. This book brings together for the first time, in a kind of anthology, a great number of his printed cards and booklets, published over a 25-year period. It also includes photographs, many in color, of his ongoing work, a garden with Garden Temples in Lanarkshire, Scotland

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  • Books

    The Indelible Image: Photographs of War—1846 to the Present

    The Indelible Image: Photographs Of War-1846 To The Present, ed. Frances Fralin, with an essay by Jane Livingston (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., and Washington D.C.: Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1985), 254 pages, 127 black and white photographs, 8 color plates.

    Most photojournalism teeters on an edge between information and voyeurism; war photography, as the extreme case of photojournalism, raises, in the sharpest possible way, basic questions about the nature and purpose of “the news” and news photos: is this picture intended to provide information, to influence my behavior, or merely to titillate

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