Monday, July 28, 2014


Uniqueness is a modern malady and those who suffer from it are condemned to a life of loneliness. We in the West work hard but we are torn by our troubles given the emptiness of our rewards. We are prosperous and educated but we have mortgaged our individuation and consigned our distinctive fingerprint to the fanciful reliquaries of quirk.

I know exactly three people of unimpeachable integrity. Unfortunately, one is dead, one is mad and one is a world class trou de cul

Hélas, it is better than nothing.

Let's leave aside for now the first two and focus on the third: My good friend David Schoffman.

You may wonder, how can I classify Schoffman as a rare man of honor and yet describe him with that classic French profanity?


Men (& women) of virtue earn their stature by the transparency of their character. With Schoffman one always knows where one stands and it's usually in the gutter of disdain. To say he suffers little foolishness in others is to tame his wicked stridency to the stature of a hood ornament. To Schoffman the only things that matter are ideas and in typical Manachian fashion, for him there are only two kinds:

Bad ones and questionable ones.

And herein lies the true definition of integrity.

To observe the world as closely as one can, alive to its warmth, its depth and its contradictions and to express ones relationship to these circumstances with complete intellectual brutality.

What is the definition of a
trou de cul?

Someone who expects and demands the same fidelity in others.

I'm honored to call him a friend.

Despite the fact that I can't stand him.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


I have a vehement distaste for what is called in the U.S. the "coffee table" book. These biblio-monstrosities are invariably too unwieldy to hold, too heavy to read and too large to store on a bookshelf. In France we call them portes de granit or granite doors and to own one is to announce that one is an intellectual arriviste.

To write one is even worse.

 Marta Shayn has contributed mightily to this pulpy tradition with her new doorstop The Vertical Life, an allegedly scholarly study of my friend David Schoffman's work from about 1998, the year he painted the Cassirer mural, to the present. The volume is voluminous in every sense of the word.

At 479 pages and measuring a regal 60 x 71cm it's a tome fit more for a tomb than for a functioning library. David seemed embarrassed when I asked him whether it was fitting to claim so many scarce natural resources towards a scholarly study of his unremarkable career. 

"It doesn't matter what I think," he deadpanned, "it only matters what they think."

Who the they in question were remains unclear.

I've always admired David for his false humility, it's a quality that despite my best efforts has eluded me my entire life.

So until they back the truck up my alley and forklift some fresh-faced professor to summarize my illustrious efforts I'll continue to express my covetous resentments without any of the ritual self-abasements, false or otherwise.

Did I mention it lists for 120?!