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Death of a Critic

Robert Hughes, described by the New Yorker as "the most famous art critic in the world", died last week. Hughes is best known for his influential documentary The Shock of the New about the development of modernism from the Impressionists through Warhol. As a critic, he was scathing about artists who failed to impress him and glowing about those who did (Lucian Freud). He described the work of Jeff Koons as "so overexposed that it loses nothing in reproduction and gains nothing in the original". On the uber influential Andy Warhol he wrote, "The alienation of the artist, of which one heard so much talk a few years ago no longer exists for Warhol: his ideal society has crystallised round him and learned to love his entropy. " That kind of punchy criticism is rarity indeed. "

Coelho pans Joyce

Paulo Coelho, the best-selling Brazilian writer of sentimental spirituality has ruffled feathers by coolly pouring scorn on James Joyce's modern masterpiece Ulysses. He said, "Today, writers want to impress other writers. One of the books that caused great harm was James Joyce's Ulysses, which is pure style. There is nothing there. Stripped down, Ulysses is a twit. " The remark drew blood. The next day, Stuart Kelly wrote in The Guardian, "Coelho is, of course, entitled to his dumb opinion, just as I am entitled to think Coelho's work is a nauseous broth of egomania and snake-oil mysticism with slightly less intellect, empathy and verbal dexterity than the week-old camembert I threw out yesterday. . . In Joyce's defence, I would say there is love, grief, anger, lust, generosity, smallmindedness, kindness and redemption as well as kidneys, dogs, claret, soap, what-the-butler-saw machines, classical statues, menstrual blood and brogues. But maybe Coelho isn't placing style against content but style against message. Maybe Ulysses can't be summarised into a sentencelong quote such as: 'Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find treasure. '

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