Sunday, March 2, 2008



Museums are garbage dumps. They are a little better organized than the rubbish pits beloved of archaeologists...

Of course the claim is made that they contain the best that remains of bygone eras... an assertion rather than the total truth.

A modern art museum is of course an absurdity and always to be avoided.

If anything, a museum is supposed to contain the distant past otherwise I find it hard to distinguish between The Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney, The Guggenheim and a department store like Macy's or K-Mart.

Of course, how dare you?

Am I the only one to remember that the Guggenheim gave itself over to displaying the work of that "great" modern artist Georgio Armani?


The only modern art museum I think that can be defended as such was the overcoat that Jacques Rigaut wore when he came to New York in the 1920s. In the pockets of that coat he had match-boxes and inside each of them were the art he declared to be the best modern art.

Rigaut was a poet and prose writer who wrote "Lord Patchogue." He, myself, Henry David Thoreau are the only major writers to have been in Patchogue and to have written about it.

Rigaut is the subject for Louis Malle's film THE FIRE WITHIN based on the novel by one the third, fourth--- but who is counting?--- most important French writers of the 20th Century, Pierre Drieu la Rochelle.

Drieu came to a sad end in 1944 along with Robert Brasillach but both Paul Morand and Louis Ferdinand Celine escaped.

All that is another story.

One can only hope that someday their antagonist that dreary little toad Jean Paul Sartre--- clinging all the the time to his Aryan certification---, will have truly disappeared. Vladimir Nabokov, as you might remember, joins me in loathing every aspect of this stool.


I had gone up to the Met to see the Poussin show. I had gone with the hopes of seeing his "Landscape with Travellers Resting." I have always looked at that painting in the National Gallery in London in January. Having gone to Arizona, south of Tombstone, this January I did not see that picture. It was not in New York. I got a lesson in how to read an art show catalogue. Under the details of the picture's size in small type, Bilbao... the painting was there in another version of the show but is not in New York.

The Met tries to be all things to all people but I do go there because one can easily avoid the modern rubbish, all that stuff from after the French Revolution.

These temporary shows of course are probably a mistake. A museum is supposed to have some aspect of permanence to it. These shows undermine that... this constant shipping around of the merchandise--- and you tell me these museums are not like department stores?


Eugene Lambe who is now mostly no longer remembered beyond appearing in my book ST PATRICK'S DAY, DUBLIN 1974 and as a dedicatee of a poem by Derek Mahon used to always tell people from his attic apartment in Longacre in London that when going to an art museum to always know ahead of time what you are going to look at.

There is no way that something once seen can then be erased from the mind. You have to be careful what you look at.

Eugene well understood that it probably did no harm to people who toured through the museums, as if they were cattle being prodded on by minders and their own need to see everything because they remembered nothing of what they saw. These tours prepared people to go to department stores where everything was for sale unlike museums that still placed some things above sale, temporarily.

One of Eugene's favorite books was a book that described all the so-called works of art that were destroyed during World War One and Two. On a dull day it was the only book that could lift Eugene's spirits. The language of regret in which the book was written could make a sane man laugh out loud, Eugene maintained.

I will write more about Eugene Lambe but for now I can well imagine from beyond there in the grave, he would have been merciless with me, if I had recounted my visit to the Met last Friday. Of course you prepared yourself correctly: to see that one painting and of course it would not be there and I am sure you have found another painting that you did see and please, I don't want to hear about it unless it is the one with that wonderful inscription that Dr. Johnson got wrong, Et in Arcadia Ego.