Thursday, November 28, 2013


Each morning upon waking my good friend David Schoffman sadly (but with great nobility) resists the overwhelming temptation to go back to sleep. He struggles daily with what he calls "the blinding ineffectuality of effort."

He stays in bed as long as possible and it is only the grating sound of his grey Brazilian shorthair Minou that spurs him into something resembling action. 

He lives on a nondescript street on the outskirts of Los Angeles where the highlight of each week is the collection of the neighborhood's recycling. 

People wonder why the cosmopolitan Schoffman chooses to live in an area that has about as much charm as a Parisian parking lot. Why, people wonder, does the militant aesthete whose strident manifesto The Senses: A Polemic, an essay that single-handedly sparked both the slow food and the dilatory foreplay movements, voluntarily reside in an area so void of charm?

Schoffman has a curious, some might say superstitious approach to his work.  He likes to quote T. S. Eliot's famous prescription that "art is an escape from emotion" and he prides himself on his ability to peel away even the faintest joy from his life. Like the bride who guards the jewel of her womanhood for her betrothed David suppresses his rage for beauty, ransoming his instincts for the benefit of his work. He feels that in order to reach the highest level of artistic refinement he must surround himself with what he calls 'the barren vacancy of the monotonous.' 

And so to Schoffman, every day is long and each morning a renewed struggle against the scourge of pessimism and lassitude.

I think he needs a vacation.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


"As the earth's temperature rises my faith in young people diminishes to the point of bitter cynicism."

Such was the terse pearl offered up by my good friend Currado Malaspina on his first tweet. To say that my colleague doesn't take too enthusiastically to the new technology is sort of like saying that the Pope isn't terribly keen on family planning. It isn't just one opinion among many, a passing and harmless prejudice that simply places him neatly among the baby-boom codgers of '68 - no - it is nothing less than the sin qua non of his artistic and intellectual identity.
So it was quite striking that he has developed such an unlikely alliance with Brooklyn's hip high priest of social media Spark Boon. On a recent trip to Paris to report on the Lefebvre art forgery scandal for Dolphy Cane's new art journal Vernissage, Boon met up with Malaspina for a pastis at Cafe Tonton in the 8th. Though dense with the din of tourist babel, it is one of Currado's guilty pleasures to frequent déclassé bistros that are loud and overpriced.

It was actually I who midwifed the meeting, hoping to rouse the aging Currado out of his creative somnolence. Boon it should be noted is the creator of viral genre-bending art videos that have force fed French Structuralism down the philistine throats of countless Instgrammers world wide.

In other words, it is a perfect match.

So in addition to his solitary tweet, Currado has doubled his stable of Facebook associates,  opened Entourage and Spotify accounts, started regularly posting on the French version of iFunny (JeRegole) and purchased a bright green I-Phone.

He's now working with some brainy North-African developers on a app that enables one to make prank Skype calls.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent

Though my command of the English language is not perfect I am fluent enough to understand the wrath of my good friend David Schoffman.

His latest grievance is the impact of "posting" and texting on what he calls "the slightly educated class." He sees the developing American vernacular as a grim whirligig of empty idioms, arbitrary diminutives and indiscriminate military-type abbreviations. 

As he bloviated to me the other day in an email, oblivious to the ironies implicit in this method of transmission: "The argot of the Internet is an effeminate linguistic afterthought that would have Shakespeare, or for that matter Walter Winchell, hermetically arc-welding their own crypts shut."


Cranky reactionary that he is, David has come up with a suitable, personal antidote to this fretful cultural decline.

Every few months Schoffman rearranges his considerable library and lugs a stack of randomly selected books clear across town planting them in his studio in small precarious ziggurats. He then proceeds, as per Nabakov, to reread these often dog-eared dust heaps and mildewed spider traps. The brittle piss-yellow pages of second-hand paperbacks practically crumble to the touch. And yet, on any given day, David might revisit The Birth of Tragedy, Huis Clos or Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism.

The idea is to suffocate any possibility of low-brow philological philandering.  

So for example if he finds himself listening to National Public Radio for any significant length of time he'll need to gargle, so to speak, with To The Lighthouse or
Swann's Way. If a telephone solicitor succeeds in penetrating his gauntlet of filters and screens and catches him unawares he'll feel the desperate need to cold shower under a reproachful downpour of Dickinson and Pound. And if, on the odd chance he happens upon the lapidary platitudes of the Huffington Post, nothing short of Wittgenstein's Tractatus will chase the bitter aftertaste of that oily AOL .

And of course, one never needs an excuse to revisit good old Walter Benjamin...

Sunday, November 03, 2013

La recherche du temps enterré

There is something rather chilling about being the subject of a book. The implication is that you have somehow crept from the present tense into the terminal past. At first I thought my good friend David Schoffman was acting like a spoiled ungrateful child but now I understand why his decision to allow the distinguished scholar Loretta Pansesna into his life has become a source of great regret.

Loretta at Work, David Schoffman '13
Pansesna. the author of two critically acclaimed biographies (The Crease is in the Middle: Godfrey Schwartzbard the Duke of Savile Row and The Unlicked Cub: Tiebé Shirat, Picasso's Forgotten Mistress) has embarked on the first, full-scale authorized biography of Schoffman and it is exciting David's already overly hypochondriac imagination.

He sees this enterprise not as a mid-career assesment but rather as a valedictory summation, a sort of closing argument, though he's not entirely sure if it is from the standpoint of the prosecution or the defense. Whatever it is, Schoffman has never felt the cold damp sigh of mortality as vividly as he does now. He sees Max von Sydow everywhere. The devil's scythe is constantly licking the scruff of his grey tufted neck while relieving him of one pawn after the next. He can't sleep nor can he paint. After all, why bother? It is all already written. It is all for naught.

To make matters worse,  Pansesna and her research staff of three annoying graduate students are dredging up an almanac of long forgotten sins. David sees absolutely no value in ventilating such a tawdry trivial concordance of not-so-youthful indiscretion. The buried past should remain safely heaped in a mulch of palliative denial where it can neatly decay with grace and without rebuttal. Now, what little future he has left will probably be consumed with matters of paternity, libal, larceny and even murder. That Schoffman will now have to answer for the slurring allegations surrounding the long forgotten Affaire de l'étouffement sur brioche will be, at the very least, a lacerating embarrassment. 

Pansensa argues that the "accidental" death in 1979 of Adèle, the nineteen year-old daughter of Almont-sur-Gironde's chef adjoint de la Cour supérieure was a tragedy that likely holds the key to the entire Schoffman oeuvre . To ignore it would be an excerise in scholarly dereliction. Maybe this biography is precisely what David needs to finally heal this open wound.

However, I think David's chief concern is that his kids will find out that while still in graduate school their dad briefly worked as a stripper in an Austin, Texas fetish bar under the pseudonym The Rope.