Dear Diary: Art


Although I spent most of the afternoon talking about art with a with a young man who has just arrived from California to study at the Grand Central Academy of Art, and notwithstanding the many clever and memorable remarks that were made by one or the other of us, what I want mention this evening is an earlier exchange with Nom de Plume. Briefly, Nom de Plume said that I am late-blooming artist. Whatever I am, it’s certainly late-blooming. But an artist? I was uncomfortable with that. Nom de Plume is used, by now, to having her compliments deflected as if they were bullets, but I do wonder, generally, how women put up with the cantankerous blend of humility (I’m not good enough to be an artist) and grandiosity (Let me tell you what I really am) that I’m not the only guy on the block to manifest.

It’s simply this: when I was growing up, writers were not artists. They were writers. The idea that a novel was somehow comparable to the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling was laughable. After all, anybody with a few years of grade school knows how to write.

As I say, cantankerous blend. Writers knew that they were better than artists. Compared to writers, artists were idiot savants, congenitally incapable of saying anything intelligent about their work. Which is why there had to be art critics — writers. Writers could explain the hokum.

Show me an American writer who doesn’t believe, in his heart of hearts, that he is really William Demarest, and I’ll show you somebody who belongs at a quilting bee.