Monday, October 30, 2006

Things I Didn't Know: A Memoir

Today's Powell's Review-A-Day is a positive review from the Christian Science Monitor of a memoir by the formidable Robert Hughes, the longtime Times Magazine art critic. Hughes is an infamous curmudgeon - noted for his brutal honesty, for his unwillingness to pull his punches. Even Robert Enright, a erudite curmudgeon as well, host of CBC's Sunday Edition, seemed a bit in awe of Hughes in their interview on Sunday.

My first encounter with Hughes was with his history of modern art, The Shock of the New, in the 1980s. I was delighted to find a guy who was clearly knowledgeable but had little patience for the BS so prevelant in the art world, especially with postmodernism and the other -isms in full flower. But his 1986 book, The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia's Founding, really rocked my world view. Until then I couldn't understand my friends' fascination with Australia - interesting travel meant travel to the old world, to Europe. Hughes' fascinating narrative history of Australia opened my eyes to the incredible stories of the new world, even pointing me back to Canadian history.

I look forward to seeing if Hughes goes easy on himself in this memoir.


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