I really want to post the last sentence of Everything Is Illuminated (given that the first sentence doesn’t really do it justice and the last one oh-so-very-much does), but that would be callous of me. Suffice it to say: OH my GOD that BOOK.
Heartbreaking and beautiful, in that order. A must-read. Maybe, maybe - and I don’t say this lightly - my new favorite.
"AN IDEAL FIT IS… An artist who has… 1. A direct, existing relationship with the occupy movement, a community-based organization or non-profit waging a campaign on the front lines of economic justice issues; 2. A track record of creating quality work that has impacted many people; 3. The ability clearly able express what the proposed project is going to be when completed.”
A few months ago, after much more hemming and hawing than I think my great-uncle Leo might have appreciated given the subject matter, my family gathered to scatter his ashes in a small copse behind the Met Museum. Standing in a loose circle, we told a few stories, said whatever more we felt we needed to say, then dipped our cupped hands into the zip-lock bag we’d appropriated for the occasion (don’t worry, Leo, we only bowed to ceremony so much). We spent the next quiet minute listening to the smooth whisper of ash running through our fingers, while a jazz saxophonist busked a few hundred yards away.
I owe Leo so much. In greater or lesser parts, I credit him with my interest in art history, my love of Shakespeare and Joyce, and my fascination with language and languages. The dinners we shared over the past six years allow me to appreciate, among so many other things, the guiding principles behind articles like this one.
But I don’t best remember Leo for his fiery genius, or for his yellowed and museum-like apartment, but rather for the cadence of his speech. Few ums, never a mislaid word, only the occasional pause - for effect, or to choose the next tack, or (in less recent years) to draw at his cigarette. And always, after a phrase or three, the rhetorical “you see?” And there, in a single phrase, Leo. Always teaching, always urging on. Always focusing on the visual, you see.
So thanks for all of it, Leo. I’ll have you know I took special care while writing this post to refrain, whenever possible, from using forms of “to be”. Thanks for that, too.