Friend of Art Scatter D.K. Row, the reporting machine of Portland’s art scene, has a good behind-the-scenes cover story in the O! section of the Sunday Oregonian about dance company BodyVox‘s bold move (especially considering the state of the economy these days) into its own space in Northwest Portland. Row doesn’t just get into the economics, he also touches on the sometimes bruised feelings and occasional jealousies on the dance scene: As Row points out, BodyVox has access to some deep pockets that other contemporary dance organizations can’t touch. Read Row’s story here. And revisit Art Scatter’s own report from last fall, when BodyVox first showed off its new digs.
Meanwhile, nobody seems to want to have a beer with Henry James, although a few people suggest a cup of tea, or maybe a sherry. The Oregonian’s Laura Grimes follows up on her delightful piece from last Sunday about trying to read The Ambassadors (see below) with a second report on her adventures with Hank — this time with a lot of sterling literary responses from readers. The online version here includes a lot more responses than the print version in this Sunday’s Oregonian books pages. (For some reason or other we feel compelled to reveal that Ms. Grimes is married to one-third of Art Scatter. We leave it to the mathematicians among you to figure out exactly what that means.)
Finally, a shout-out to Liesl Schillinger for her review in this week’s New York Times Book Review of Louise Erdrich’s new collection of short stories, The Red Convertible. Quite sensibly, Schilinger writes admiringly about Erdrich: That’s as it should be. But what caught our eye was her opening salvo, a vociferous defense of American lit in general against the cold Arctic glare of those sneering Swedes of the Nobel establishment (she takes her argument, of course, much further than this, in some interesting ways):
“Last fall, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, the group that hands out the Nobel Prize in Literature, disparaged American letters, saying our fiction was ‘too isolated, too insular’ and ‘too sensitive to trends’ in our own ‘mass culture’ (in short, too American) to matter much in the wider world. But it’s the very Americanness of our literature — the hybrid nature of our national makeup, our mania for self-invention and reinvention — that captured the international imagination at a time when most readers could never visit the country they dreamed about. It still does today.
“Americanness needs no apology; it’s the strength of our letters.
Thanks, Liesl. We needed that. Young and crude and immature we may be, but we are also creative and energetic and — yes — idealistic, and we still believe that art can and should be a democratic expression. Your question near the end of your essay — “(I)s the capacity for the quiet use of leisure, something essential to reading, on the wane?” — is pertinent to the entire world, a place that interestingly includes Sweden and the United States alike.
We hereby appoint Ms. Schillinger an honorary Friend of Art Scatter. Sadly, this honor comes with no Nobel prize money attached.
Cool things to read in other places:
— Laura Grimes, charter member of Friends of Art Scatter, has a delightful piece in the Sunday Oregonian’s books pages about reading Henry James‘s The Ambassadors (or trying to read it) on the bus, and whether James was quite the sort of fellow you could sit down and have a beer with. Read it here.
— Also in The Oregonian, on Monday’s op-ed page, is a bell-ringer by Tim Smith on how to “bail in” the reeling auto industry instead of bailing it out. Smith, a principal at SERA Architects in Portland and a Detroit native, suggests: “(L)et’s reorganize GM to replace it. Why not fund a conversion of General Motors from a purveyor of private transportation hardware to a planner, fabricator and supplier of a renewed, nationwide public transportation system?” An elegant, provacative piece, with some historical sting. Read it here.
— And, in case you missed it in the New York Times the day before Christmas, this intriguing piece via Art Journal about the brouhaha over deaccessioning art at museums to raise bucks, a move that’s recently put New York’s cash-strapped National Academy Museum in hot-to-boiling water. Is it an idea whose time has come? Maybe so, maybe no. Author Jori Finkel talks with, among others, former Portland Art Museum director Dan Monroe, now at the Peabody Essex Museum in Masachusetts. Read it here.