Thyrza Nichols Goodeve

  • Copy Shopping

    As a professor of mine told me twenty years ago, “Advertising is the folklore of American childhood.” Indeed, print and TV ads are so much a part of us—their chirpy jingles and inane phrases having colonized our brains—that consciousness today can seem like one long commercial interruption.

    Maybe it’s for this reason that we love to hate the messages from our sponsors. Print and TV ads can make an armchair cultural critic out of even the most indolent consumer. We asked a group of artists, writers, and critics to select an ad that had moved or provoked them in recent months and to tell us why.

  • Coveted Creations

    IT COULD HAVE HAPPENED when you were a teenager, still cultivating the tastes you would someday turn into a career (or at least enjoy as everyday pleasures). You’re reading a book, or looking at a painting, or listening to a piece of music that crashes in on you and triggers a ferocious sense of recognition, and you sputter, “I wish I had done this!”

    The awe may be inspired by an athlete who uses his body like a magic toy, a painter who captures a moment with the faintest brushstroke, a writer who crafts in words the subtlest emotions. When I told a friend about this column, she immediately said,

  • Quotable Quoters

    IF EMERSON REGARDED QUOTATIONS as lazy dross produced from an uninspired brain (“I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”), for some of us there is nothing more sublime than the purloined line. Repeating another’s words is more complex than not wanting—or being able—to tell “what you know.” In the hands of a true artisan, borrowed lines become bits of homage or love—thick parcels of new meaning. The chosen phrases dressed in quotation marks that sparkle one’s diary, clarify one’s argument, or dance in one’s head long after one has put down a book are less lazy moments of an infirm mind than


    The acquisition of life is by the process of animation itself.
    The Brothers Quay, 1986

    THE ANIMATED PUPPET WORLDS of the Brothers Quay have entranced art cinephiles since 1979. Seemingly made by miniature shadow-fairies rather than the actual tall humans the Quays are, their films—Nocturna Artificialia, 1979, The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer, 1984, Street of Crocodiles, 1986, Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies, 1987—and music videos, including the award-winning “Sledgehammer” for Peter Gabriel, take us eyeball and eardrum through fantastically handcrafted architecturally impossible visions of lost modernity. Deeply intellectual, their work is suffused with moodiness, patterned after



    A young boy sits reading sequential volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica. He has reached the P’s and is absorbed by the entry on primates. A tall gangly man sits down.

    Man: What a pile you have there.

    Boy nods but will clearly engage no further.

    Man: I bet you have all sorts of ideas about what you want to be when you grow up. Tell me, what does a boy who reads so much dream of becoming?

    Boy sits perplexed. The future as something to dream oneself into has never occurred to him. If anything, he imagines someday being a TV repair man, or an electronics


    MATTHEW BARNEY IS THE MYTHOGRAPHER of our closing millennium, of a world less recognizably human—which isn’t such a bad thing. Like a Victor Frankenstein breast-fed with a dose of David Cronenberg, Barney is assembling an ever-permutating organism of extending limbs (performance, video, sculpture, installation) that has much to say about a world of growth and reproduction fervently at odds with the human condition as we know it. In Barney’s universe, hard masculine football-playing bodies are as prone to penetration and transformation as the protean landscape of the fairy tale. And familiar

  • The Diary of Jack the Ripper

    The Diary of Jack the Ripper: The Discovery, the Investigation, the Debate by Shirley Harrison. New York: Hyperion, 1993.

    Visitors to Madame Tussaud’s in 1974 ranked [Jack the Ripper] third on a list of most hated and feared (edged out only by Adolph Hitler and Richard Nixon).
    —Jane Caputi, The Age of Sex Crime, 1987

    There lives within me . . . a monstrous hybrid of the perpetrator, victim, and witness. . . . Siamese triplets with no circus to escape to, a complicitous Holy Trinity that is the closest thing to authenticity that we can experience in the land of Nod.
    —Mark Alice Durant, “Overexposures


    But what is pain? Pain rends. It is the rift. But it does not tear apart into dispersive fragments. Pain indeed tears asunder, it separates, yet so that at the same time it draws everything to itself. Its rending, as a separating that gathers, is at the same time that drawing which, like the pendrawing of a plan or sketch, draws and joins together what is held apart in separation. Pain is the joining agent in the rending that divides and gathers. Pain is the joining of the rift.
    —Martin Heidegger, Unterwegs zur Sprache, 1959

    During that course in which “I” become, I give birth to myself amid the

  • To tame the wild profusion of existing things

    To listen carefully is to preserve. But to preserve is to burn, for understanding means creating.
    Trinh T. Minh-Ha, Woman, Native, Other

    This book first arose out of a passage in Borges, out of the laughter that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought—our thought, the thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography—breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age-old distinction between the