Years ago I went through a phase of reading the New York Press
when we visited New York, and my memory of that publication boils down to Jim Knipfel's column, Slackjaw
--kind of fascinating, kind of repellent. When the book came out, I noted the positive reviews, but never had an opportunity to read it. Then it turned up as a donation at the library, and I'm the first to check it out. He's a brave, articulate, cynically funny man who's had more bad breaks already than another ten people put together, from retinitis pigmentosa to a brain lesion. His descriptions of dealing with the various agencies helping the blind in New York City--particularly the way they valued him symbolically for holding down a full-time job, yet continually expected him to have time during the day for their bureaucratic paper chase--are both entertaining and enlightening. I enjoyed the writing and the anecdotes, admired Knipfel's resilience, and identified to a certain extent with his misanthropy. But overall, I can't say I loved it, and I was glad to part ways with him at the end. Sometimes the person who moves into my head when I read a biography or memoir turns out to be somebody I just don't click with long-term; no reflection on the book itself. My favorite passage, about a stint at the Whitney when they decided to hire impoverished artists as museum guards:
This is what my fellow guards and I experienced, during a typical ten-hour day: Packs of wild grade-school children on a field trip, running rough-shod over Giacometti sculptures. Tourists protesting, "But I am French!" when told not to touch the paintings. American visitors demanding their money back, arguing that there was no real art in the museum.
Oh, and Thomas Pynchon loves him! I thought blurbs from Pynchon must be pretty rare, but perhaps I'm wrong