The Sensual Dadaist

April 4, 2020

A long time ago, probably in the mid-1960s, I found the Dadaists much to my taste. Of that group, perhaps Jean (or Hans) Arp has stayed with me longest. He was the only Dadaist to produce truly graceful artworks in contrast to the wrecking crew as some have dubbed the other anarchists.

Self portrait, about 1922

In an article for its online magazine, Christie’s describes Arp’s work as “playful, ambiguous, sensuous” and “alluring.”

“The highest 25 prices for Arp pieces at auction have all been realised in the past 15 years. According to Didier Hess, two types of work are the most sought-after. One are his bas-reliefs from the 1920s, which are rare and bear witness to Arp’s seminal role in the development of Surrealism.  The other, of course, are his biomorphic sculptures executed in prestigious materials such as white marble or black granite — and characterised by their purity of line and immaculate polished surface.”

A fine example of the latter is Demeter, created in 1961 and sold at auction in 2018 for $5.825,000.

Artwork: © DACS 2020


The Christie’s article is in advance of a coming sale of an Arp.  Selon Les Lois Du Hasard — a wood relief, 11 ½ x 17 ½ x 1 3/8 in., executed in 1951 in an edition of 3 — is expected to sell for about $55,000:


Jean Arp died in 1966.

Night Music: Lean On Me

April 4, 2020

The wonderful Bill Withers died yesterday. He will be missed.

Supporting Local Stores Goes So Much Further

April 4, 2020

As anyone who reads my history pieces, and especially anyone who has read, The Drive, will understand how important I believe local newspapers are — both for us today and for the historians of the future.  It is with the utmost regret, therefore, that I note the passing of the Vancouver Courier.

The Courier is having to close because of the lack of local advertising that supports its work:

“The small, independent businesses in our community that are under economic pressure to shut their doors or reduce services are the same ones that have supported our coverage and made it possible to deliver free, local news to you. Their significant drop in advertising revenue for our publication and lack of quick, available government funding means that we have been forced to make the difficult decision to cease both print and online coverage.”

Our loyal support of local merchants is one of the reasons our neighbourhood is usually so vibrant and alive.  The current retail shutdown is not of our making. However, as we can now plainly see, lack of that support (for whatever reason) has even wider ramifications than deserted sidewalks and empty stores.

My fingers are crossed that the Courier‘s closure will be just temporary, but I will sorely miss their journalism in the weeks ahead..


Nobels For DeLillo and Irving

April 4, 2020

I am of the opinion that the next two American Nobel Literature prizewinners should be John Irving and Don DeLillo.  I’ve thought that for a while, and so I was delighted to find an essay by Gerald Howard at urging on the selection of DeLillo.

The failure of the Academy to select Philip Roth before he died was a constant complaint in literary circles.  It was described as equal to their failure to recognize Nabokov, Joyce, or Borges.  However, writes Howard:

“[E]ven while Roth was alive I regarded DeLillo as the greatest living American writer, and now the matter is not remotely debatable. Roth, of course, was a highly visible public figure and a shrewd manager of his own career and reputation, while DeLillo, though by no means the Pynchonian recluse he was once mistaken for, shuns the spotlight and has no interest in the wages of fame. To the extent the matter of a DeLillo Nobel is discussed, the consensus seems to be that yeah, he probably should get it, but he won’t because, well . . . he’s too cerebral, he stays under the radar.”


“By every metric that we use to measure literary greatness—including overall achievement, scope and variety of subject matter, striking and fully realized style, duration of career, originality and formal innovation, widespread influence here and abroad, production of masterpieces, consistency of excellence, pertinence of themes, density of critical commentary, and dignity in the conduct of a literary career—Don DeLillo, now eighty-three, scores in the highest possible percentile.”

Howard writes well of the various reasons DeLillo deserves the Prize.  He concludes by noting

“the dignity and nobility that he has brought to his vocation as a novelist. He may be the last totally free man in American literature. He eschews almost all the encumbrances and strategies of a postmodern literary career. His public appearances at readings and panels are sparse … [But] he has in fact given enough interviews over the decades to fill an entire book of them, and in those interviews he speaks of his personal history, his intentions and obsessions as a novelist, his working habits, and, especially, the larger place of the writer in our culture with epigrammatic wit and unshowy eloquence. While his oft-repeated mantra is Joyce’s motto “Silence, exile, and cunning,” Don DeLillo has taken care to be perfectly understood.”

I agree entirely with Howard on DeLillo’s literary importance, on the power of his prose, and on his insights into post-war America.  Given DeLillo’s age, I agree too that he should be the next Nobel winner.  But once that happens, I’ll be leading the charge for John Irving.

Grandview 4th April 1920

April 4, 2020

“Vancouver Sun” 19200404, p.42


All previous Grandview 1920 clippings