Monday, July 6, 2009

To You, RE: "Seven Days in the Art World"

I read Sarah Thornton's "Seven Days in the Art World" for a book group meeting at MOCA in North Miami.

It's a breezy read--and a good introduction to the contemporary art world as far as I can tell--but I don't feel the need to spend the time necessary to write Ms. Thornton a personal letter.

One note however: I wonder why publishers and writers don't make longer versions of "accessible" books available online. "Seven Days" was clearly meant to hit the "general reader" (in the words of Futurama: "An idea that frankly I find preposterous") and subsequently clearly suffers from over-editing. Or underwriting, as the case may be, but, based on Thornton's interview list and bibliography, I'd guess the former. Oftentimes, just as she was about to delve into an interview subject or a scene with the appropriate depth, the paragraph would break and we'd be on to something else.

A perfect example is the chapter on the class at Cal-Arts. In contrast to how she handles the blow-by-blow account of the announcement of the Turner Prize, Thornton rarely lets us hear the dialogue in the class as it was said. Rather, she prefers to summarize the action for us, and, from what I can tell from the little dialogue she does let us hear, misrepresents the students as some weird combination of bored, ambitious, and mean. (Whenever one of them talks in the book, the result is pretty impressive--the student sounds hyper-intelligent, self-aware, and very dedicated. If you took out these quotes though, you'd hate these kids.)

So can us "non-general readers" get the X-rated version, please? :)

1 comment:

  1. I didn't read this book, but I read about it a while ago. It seems to belong to that category of books about the art world written by people with passing acquaintance with the art world who use artists as cannon fodder for an argument which is ultimately irrelevant to the art world.

    Any book about the art world worth anything would be written by an art world insider, but very few of those will be likely to do so.

    The best one I can think of that you might enjoy, which is definitely X-rated--not in terms of seX, but in terms of the appalling nature of some of the recounted tales/events (he's pompous, haughty and sexist, natch) is Tales from the Art Crypt, by Richard Feigen.

    [NYTimes review: ]

    It's a bit from another era, but I suspect that we'll have to wait for the end of our own to get a similar book about this era.