After reading it recently, I had to add this one to the Further Reading section of The List and the Story. Here's what I have to say about it:

This essay consists of forty-one "introductions" to her subject, the once-lionized Eighties visual artist David Salle, based on two years of interviews between him and Malcolm and published in 1994, when Salle was forty-one years old. In the eighteenth "false start," Malcolm says, "Nothing is ever resolved by Salle, nothing adds up, nothing goes anywhere, everything stops and peters out." Besides commenting on her subject both as an artist and as a personality, Malcolm also clues the reader into how her formal choices structure the essay's meaning: in attempting to know and to report on this conflicted, perhaps disingenuous artist, the only way to approach intellectual honesty is to present him in fragments. These fragments, presumably like Salle's work (I have to confess I'd never heard of Salle before I read this essay), are the only way to accurately and engagingly present him. Or, in the words of New Yorker staff writer Rachel Aviv, "it will make you attuned to how impossible it is to ever really know someone."

AuthorJohn Proctor