SHAPINSKY'S KARMA, BOGG'S BILLS And Other True-Life Tales by Lawrence Weschler


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New Yorker staff-writer Weschler, who has previously written serious works on politics and art (e.g., Cameraworks, with David Hockney, 1984), here shows a lighter touch in this collection of profiles highlighting the lives of characters on the periphery of the arts community. Weschler's life-studies range right across the social scale, from a highly respected lexicographer to a bankrupt bookstore owner in hiding--but all stand united by a common obsessiveness that has transported them beyond safely trodden careers into areas of unusual distinction. Included in the group is J.S. Bogg, a young American artist whose specialty involves cooking up authentic-looking currency bills that are bartered for goods and services--an act of counterfeiting according to the British police, who didn't buy his story and through arrest transformed him into a recognizable, albeit dubious, light in the art-world firmament. There is also Lennie of ""Lennie's Illusion,"" the likable dreamer behind a failed bookstore, and Nicolas Slonimsky, a failed Wunderkind (whistles chunks of Schonberg at the drop of a hat) who, at 92, is also one of the world's leading musical lexicographers (and who has just published his autobiography, Perfect Pitch, p. 47). The crowning touch, however, belongs to Weschler's account of how a teacher of elementary English at a rural agricultural college in India succeeded in rescuing a long-forgotten Manhattan abstract-expressionist painter from obscurity, bringing the two of them into the international limelight. The imperial reach of Weschler's slightly detached style will be familiar to readers of those vacation-length New Yorker essays, but the boon here is his ability to maintain empathy for his subjects while at the same time floating discreet skepticism about the vagaries of a moneyed art scene. Charming, leisurely reading.

Pub Date: June 8th, 1988
Publisher: North Point