Frederic Tuten

  • Roy Lichtenstein

    ROY AND I HAD these little talks whenever I got shaky about dying. No one else I knew seemed so certain about death’s vacant aftermath, and seemed so certain without bravado or dread. He had no fear of death, he said. You were just gone and out. As for any aftermath, Roy was going to leave his soul to science.

    So much for what I’d already known. In this arena (and perhaps this was the only one), there were no consolations forthcoming from Roy. Why did I bother to ask? Just to hear him repeat how unfearful he was, I suppose. For the tonic effect it might have on me.

    Hemingway said that one of the

  • The Magician’s Wife

    JEROME CHARYN'S FICTION, FOR those unfortunate enough not to have read it, ranges from tales of childhood in the Bronx to a thriller—in the esthetic as well as in the literary-genre sense—about a Jewish homicide detective soured by the tapeworm of unrequited love. Much of it comprises a personal view of the city in which Charyn was born and raised, and in which we remain strangers and tourists until we die. This is a speedy, lyrical fiction, brutal and romantic. When it hits, it’s like reading Lewis Carroll and Louis-Ferdinand Céline while riding a steeplechase, but you soon come to see that

  • Mazel tov.

    How many artists get a chance? How many today can afford a loft downtown (I’m not talking buying, just rental)? How many get a group show, let alone a gallery? How many ever get noticed?

    So what if Rex, our protagonist of these ten months, hit a roadblock or a hundred; so what if his paintings had been frozen in a Siberia of legalisms—didn’t his work get seen, get hated and loved while the works of countless fellow artists stayed racked in their studios, dying for someone to look at them? Measured by the experience of most artists, Rex has indeed been fortunate. It would seem he had an open road

  • A Romance in Ten Parts, Chapter 9: Flight

    WHEN WE LAST LEFT the courtroom, at the beginning of April, it was discovered that the collector who had been suing Rex for image-larceny was none other than Rex’s partner in his first sophisticated affair, the artist Alma, who, you may remember—you, the reader, the one with a privileged interior view into the plaintiff’s and defendant’s bedrooms and studios—was really the thief, even if the external world thinks otherwise.

    Such a twist on the identity of the plaintiff had thrown the court- room into a vertigo of real and not real, true and false, belief and confusion.The judge decided to put a

  • A Romance in Ten Parts, Chapter 8: Twist and Shout

    IN THE MONTH after the collectors, people by the name of Ledgekeep, brought suit against Rex for the alleged theft of their prize artist’s, Alma’s, imagery, Rex was in a shadowy limelight.

    The art world talked about the Alma-Rex controversy. The popular weeklies, which found the legal case sizzling cheese indeed, cooked it up. Persons magazine was mad for the chance to “photo-story the lifestyles” of the mysterious collectors who had originated the suit, but they vanished into thin air every time a reporter or photographer got on their trail. Mrs. Ledgekeep, however, gave telephone interviews

  • A Romance in Ten Parts, Chapter 7: Scapegoat

    IT WOULD BE NATURAL TO think that after seeing Alma’s show—a weak mirror of his own work—Rex suffered. In fact, he did. A double suffering. For in one shot he had had his ideas stolen from him and he had lost all faith in the famous woman, his lover, who had committed the theft.

    If Rex had lived in the 19th century, and this were a 19th-century tale, we might have said that his soul had been stolen (his two souls, to be exact) and that in its place sadness filled the vacancy, and our hearts would have gone out to him. Yet the reader of today, who is quite rightly sickened by archetypes in the

  • the wings of love, Rex finds out what give-and-take is all about.

    THE SUN SHONE BRILLIANTLY through the windows of Rex’s newly sublet Manhattan loft, just as it would had he owned it.

    The bright openness of this new space gave Rex the cocky sense that he was someone who had arrived, so much a figure that he could make a phone call—the phone call, the one he had been dreaming of making ever since he had inveigled her number from his dealer, Mario Marcus, the day she had extended an invitation to them to visit her studio. In his nervousness, he first dialed 475-40001. Then he dialed her seven magic numbers; and without a thought of Mario Marcus joining him, Rex

  • Rex, on a roll, brushes with Cupid.

    SINCE THE TIME OF his creative paralysis and his vision of a world without art, Rex had made much happen. He had painted relentlessly, and this had further steeled him to work without feeling a need to please the nosy self-appointed ghosts of art history. Rex no longer compared himself to others, no longer begrudged those who seemed to paint and live in ease. Once he had ceased to measure himself against the world, his art gave a kick and cantered off on its own.

    And in the commonplace way that extraordinary events in life happen, one day Mario Marcus, building inspector, while on a tour examining

  • Rex puts an end to art. A Christmas carol.

    IT WAS DECEMBER AND New York was ablaze with complaints about the shabby commercialism of the season. Rex had not yet learned that it was traditional for New Yorkers to make such complaints, and he blended these humbuggings with his own misery of not having painted in over a month. (Also, his finances howled at him like creatures in an Ensor crowd.) “I curse the day I ever came to this rotten city,“ Rex mumbled. He started to work himself up to even greater bitterness until there was nowhere to go but annihilating rage: “I wish I had never been an artist. I wish there was no art!”

    A silence more

  • A Romance in Ten Parts, Chapter 3: Frieze

    ONE MONTH LATER. . . . Gloom had organized Rex’s dawn, self-pity his morning.

    It felt to Rex that everyone but he owned large lofts where they sat discussing art and other artists, that everyone but he lived richly and had bricks of cash which they burned potlatch fashion on expensive-restaurant tables. Artists his age and younger sauntered into their galleries and were met with smiles from beautiful young persons behind reception desks. Only he was without friends, cash, gallery. Rex was continuing in this malignant vein when his fourth coffee gave his heart a chemic jolt of élan vital. He

  • Rex gets his feet wet.

    IN TWO WEEKS REX would have exhausted his savings. (Which reminded him that J. L. Gigot; Parisian critic at large for various French periodicals under formation, still owed him $43.85 which Rex had loaned him to help meet the month’s rent.)

    But there was hope. Dorothy, his guardian angel from art-school days, had promised to introduce him to the director of a midtown indoor tennis court, who was looking for an artist to create a fresco for the entrance. And Rico Radziwell, his building super, for a consideration to be paid him if Rex got the position, was arranging to have Rex’s name put on the

  • A Romance in Ten Parts, Chapter 1: Arrival

    IMAGINE A YOUNG ARTIST, without a trust fund, coming to live in New York City for the very first time.

    In the map he had drawn from reading October, the Art Journal, The Village Voice, and Raw magazine, Rex’s ideal apartment/workspace was located somewhere below 14th Street and east of Second Avenue. He quickly discovered that the East Village had been raked over like a Zen garden. Avenue C had gone condo; Avenue A said bars, restaurants, and galleries with straight walls. Rex put himself on a waiting list for a studio apartment in a newly renovated tenement on Avenue B, the Cezanne Arms, knowing

  • Art Trek

    OUR SHIP’S LIBRARY HAS many gaps and I cannot be certain until we reach the planet X777, also known as “Earth,” and I am able to use the bibliographical resources there that the material on which I am basing my observations at this prefieldwork stage of the inquiry accurately describes the subject under investigation, the human artist. I wish to add that I normally would have waited for the completion of my assignment before submitting my report; therefore, I here present these preliminary and tentative observations with the qualification that the Bureau has requested the following report against

  • History of the Universe

    Jennifer Bartlett, History Of The Universe (New York: Moyer Bell Limited/Nimbus Books, 1985), 197 pages, 12 black and white photographs.

    Jennifer Bartlett’s first published novel, History of the Universe, has many remarkable qualities, the least being that it is one of the few autobiographical fictions, a roman à clef, by a practicing American artist. But Bartlett’s novel is remarkable neither for this reason nor for its being an artist’s fiction—a place it shares with fictions of such other artist writers as André Breton, Wyndham Lewis, and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. History of the Universe is

  • Julian Barnes' Flaubert’s Parrot. Feathers fly.

    I LOOKED FORWARD TO reading Julian Barnes’ Flaubert’s Parrot. It had landed here from England with a snappy whiff of intellectual brine and had won In this country several literary endorsements from writers I respect, and some of my artist friends had it about—usually a good omen. Also, the title drew me in, auspiciously rhyming with books I have long admired—Bernard Malamud’s Rembrandt’s Hat, André Malraux’s Picasso’s Mask, Roger Shattuck’s _Proust’s Binoculars—and thus, by fortuitous association, promising a personable breed of intelligence. I entertained, a priori, the hope of avoiding the

  • The Hypocrisy of Justice in the Belle Epoque

    Let me say right off that I could not put this book down—not so much for Benjamin Martin’s analysis of the hypocrisy of the social scene of the Third Republic as for his fascinating account of the three major scandals of the period. One of these, the Steinheil Affair, reads like a treatment for a Belle Epoque soap opera. Here are the facts.

    At 21, Meg Japy, beautiful, sensual, etc., married a man twenty years her elder, an artist of vast ordinariness but who had made his modest way “content that each year since 1870 the official state exhibition had selected one of his paintings for hanging.”

  • The Innocent Eye

    The Innocent Eye: On Modern Literature and the Arts, by Roger Shattuck, New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1984, 362 pp., 11 black and white illustrations.

    Roger Shattuck’s The Banquet Years (1958) remains the unsurpassed work on the great, fecund period of art ferment in Paris before World War I. Rich with anecdote and stories of such exotic artists as Alfred Jarry, Henri Rousseau, and Guillaume Apollinaire, The Banquet Years serves as a model cultural history, a luscious, erudite narrative. “Having Congress: The Shame of the Thirties,” the lead essay in Shattuck’s recent collection of essays, The

  • The Architecture of Death, The Great Cat Massacre, DV, Glen Baxter His Life, and Has Modernism Failed?

    FOR CLARITY AND DEPTH of scholarship, for its unobtrusive erudition and the light it casts on what we have imagined to be the function of the cemetery for the quick and the dead, Richard Etlin’s book is a marvel. It stands as an example of the value and beauty of humanistic study and ranks among the highest works of interdisciplinary learning in the history of ideas.

    Etlin fulfills his claim that “this book . . . is not a simple architectural or social history. It is an exploration of how a society fashions its physical world to support and sustain its most cherished convictions and deepest


    WE WERE INTENDING TO MEET for days, but Alain Resnais was caught up in the final postproduction touches on his most recent film, L’Amour à Mort. This would have been one of the many talks we have had over the years of our friendship. In the summer of 1980, Resnais and I spent at least two hours a day for two months drinking coffee and talking casually in an apartment in Paris across from the Luxembourg Gardens. At the time, I often thought of taping our conversations—I even may have taken notes, especially when Resnais talked about Paris before the war (the Paris, he was sure, I really would

  • For Georges Remi/Hergé

    I THOUGHT LONG ON HOW to write about my friend Georges Remi, known everywhere as Hergé, the creator, or—as they called him in the European press the day he died in March, 1983—the father of Tintin.

    I first assumed I would describe his work, analyze its images and themes, but there are already scholars and experts, such as the French cultural philosopher Michel Serres, who thoroughly know the Hergé oeuvre and can elucidate the nuances of the transformations of Tintin from his earliest black and white avatar as boy-reporter in Land of the Soviets (1930) to his final, color-filled incarnation in