“More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.”
—Truman Capote, Answered Prayers
“In 1972 I began work on this book by writing the last chapter first (it’s always good to know where one’s going). Then I wrote the first chapter, ‘Unspoiled Monsters.’ Then the fifth, ‘A Severe Insult to the Brain.’ Then the seventh, ‘La Côte Basque.’ I went on in this manner, writing different chapters out of sequence. I was able to do this only because the plot—or rather the plots—was true, and all the chapters were real: it wasn’t difficult to keep it all in mind, for I hadn’t invented anything.”
As it turned out, he didn’t know what he was doing. “Mojave” was the first chapter to appear and caused some talk, but the next, “La Côte Basque,” produced an explosion which rocked the small society which Truman had set out to describe. Virtually every friend he had in this world ostracized him for telling thinly disguised tales out of school, and many of them never spoke to him again.
Truman defiantly professed to be undismayed by the furor (…) “What did they expect?” he was quoted as saying. “I am a writer, and I use everything. Did all those people think I was there just to entertain them?,” but there is no doubt that he was shaken by the reaction, and I am convinced it was one of the reasons why he apparently stopped working, at last temporarily, on “Answered Prayers” after the publication of “Unspoiled Monsters” and “Kate Mc Cloud” in Esquire in 1976.
—Joseph M. Fox, 1987 on the publication of Answered Prayers
Besides, if I wrote about his brothers I should have to begin by attacking all the lies that the poor have told about the rich and the rich have told about themselves—such a wild structure they have erected that when we pick up a book about the rich, some instinct prepares us for unreality. Even the intelligent and impassioned reporters of life have made the country of the rich as unreal as fairy-land.
Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different.
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Rich Boy
But years later, Ernest Hemingway, who was supposedly a friend of Fitzgerald, mocked the famed opening lines of “Rich Boy” in his short story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” In the original version of that story, printed in Esquire magazine in 1936, Hemingway wrote: “The rich… were dull and they drank too much, or they played too much backgammon. They were dull and they were repetitious. He remembered poor Scott Fitzgerald and his romantic awe of them and how he had started a story once that began, ‘The very rich are different from you and me.’ And how some one had said to Scott, Yes, they have more money. But that was not humorous to Scott. He thought they were a special glamorous race and when he found they weren’t it wrecked him as much as any other thing that wrecked him.”
—Wikipedia article on Ernest Hemingway, The Snows of Kilimanjaro
Most artists I know work with shame. Only the hand of the rich guy shrinks from touching his own money, and the very few, mostly straight, mostly male artists who can make six figures on a sculpture are usually unkeen to admit it (Sterling Ruby, who is represented by Hauser & Wirth, once told me he didn’t know the prices of his works). It’s no fun to think about what we deserve, especially if we’ve already outgotten it. Some of us, however, know that money is the last thing a person can deserve, and you can’t imagine an artist like Wolfson using a word like “earning.”
Klaus Biesenbach, the director, went out to get sandwiches from Subway. And it wasn’t until I noticed that he was only giving sandwiches to his friends (or his critics) that for the first time all week, something actually happened at a party.
At first I thought Mykki Blanco, the New York rapper and performance artist, was starting a food fight, because he was throwing bits of a sandwich in Biesenbach’s face, and because Miami is a place where a food fight might be positioned as an experience. I thought nervously of my discount Jil Sander, a white dress I’d just had dry-cleaned. Then Blanco was yelling. Biesenbach was mumbling (an apology, someone said later). “My legacy will outlive your curatorial bullshit,” Blanco was saying. Everyone sat up straight. Blanco got up on a table.
What Blanco did may or may not have been rehearsed, and it may or may not have been a “stunt,” as some said, and it may or may not have been, as many speculated, “justifiable” in the particular. What he said, however, was that Biesenbach doesn’t care about black people unless they’re famous. What he said, and the demandingness with which he said it, was in the general so just—so urgent—that the wish for it to be justified is disgusting. “He wants to hug Mickalene Thomas, he wants to hug Kehinde Wiley,” said Blanco, three or four times. “I’m not Mickalene Thomas, I’m not Kehinde Wiley,” he said, twice. The second time I caught that he was saying, “I’m not your Mickalene Thomas.” He talked about being black in America. He talked about being hated. When he said your, I didn’t think he was talking to Biesenbach, and when he called him a German and a bad word for gay, I thought “German” sounded more like the slur. “He doesn’t like black people,” said Blanco, just once. “He likes black culture.” I felt a little bad for Mickalene Thomas, but mostly I just felt bad.
—Sarah Nicole Prickett, Scene and Herd, Artforum Diary, Art Basel Miami, 2014
The conversation, incidentally, was taking a rather harmonious course. The dinner had reached the point where men touch the knees of the women or question them about their literary preferences according to their temperament and education, according, above all, to the individual lady.
For an instance a snag seemed unavoidable. When, with the imprudence of youth, Honorés handsome neighbor attempted to insinuate that Heredia’s oeuvre might contain more substance than was generally claimed, the diners, whose habits of thinking were upset, grew surly. But since Madame Fremer promptly exclaimed, “On the contrary, those things are nothing but admirable cameos, gorgous enamels, flawless gold-smithery,” vivacity and contentment returned to all faces.
A discussion about anarchists was more serious. But Madame Fremer, as if resigned and bowing to a fateful law of nature, slowly said: “What good does it all do. There will always be rich people and poor people.” And, struck by this truth and delivered from their scruples, all these people, of whom the poorest had a private annual income of at least a hundred thousand francs, drained their final flutes of champagne with hearty cheerfulness.
— Marcel Proust, A dinner in high society
… you’d better be watching yourself; this is a very ominous watershed for us all, and since I’ll probably never have an opening to say it again. I might as well belch it out now … Yes … You have just Been Bought? Sold Out? Bought IN?
—Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in America, Letters 1968–1976