Tuesday, December 3, 2002

Camille Paglia: Zealous Howling

First appeared in The American Prospect

Oops, She Did It Again

A year and a half after the headline-making Sensation exhibit, the Brooklyn Museum of Art has sparked yet another controversy involving art, religion, freedom of expression, the role of the museum, and, not least of all, the nature of art criticism--which the philosopher Arthur Danto not long ago characterized as "a form of zealous howling." In the case of both Brooklyn shows, one of the most zealous howlers has been New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. When Sensation opened, he threatened to cut off public funding for the museum, an initiative soon extinguished by the courts. His response to the museum's current show, Committed to the Image: Contemporary Black Photographers, has been to call for a "decency panel," an idea that New Yorkers have tended to slough off with comments like "What's he know about decency? He's been cheating on his wife for years."

But the award for loudest howling by an art critic would have to go to Camille Paglia, who should get special mention for making big noises about both shows without bothering to attend either one in person--extraordinary behavior from someone who calls herself an "arts educator."

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Book Review: Steven Pinker's "The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature"



Headline: Tabula Pinker: In his latest book, linguist Steven Pinker calls for a scientific revolution

"The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature," By Steven Pinker, Viking, 528 pages.

In his earlier volumes, "The Language Instinct" and "How the Mind Works," Steven Pinker won critical and popular acclaim for his lucid expositions of how language and the brain function. Surprisingly, his new book is an overgrown broadside, by turns dull and illuminating. What happened?

Pinker assumes the mantle of bellicose and ambitious prophet, proclaiming, as the century starts, that mankind is in for a transformation of Copernican proportions. There is a shorter, more modest, and more trustworthy volume huddling in the folds of this one, but maybe it's better that it had not been written. Since this book is nothing less than a manifesto for a scientific revolution, we might as well have the whole agenda on the table, prejudices and all.

Sunday, September 1, 2002

Q&A Walter Mosley: Loving Mouse

Originally appeared in the Boston Book Review.
(Date approximate).

     “I love you Daddy. I need you.”
     “You need this?”
     And she made a sound that I cannot duplicate. It was deep and guttural and so charged with pleasure that I got dizzy and lowered myself to the floor.
     The sounds Etta made got louder and even more passionate. She never made those sounds because of me; no woman ever had.
     Mouse is crazy, I thought, just crazy!
     But I wished for his insanity.
     Etta did too.
          "A Red Death" (2002)
HB: Tell me about Mouse.