Vanity Fair profiles The eXile: "Gutsy...visceral...serious journalism...abusive, defamatory...poignant...paranoid...and right!"
MSNBC: Mark Ames and Yasha Levine
Broke the Koch Brothers' Takeover of America
Books / July 18, 2009


Anyway, Rousseau’s naked lady is funny in the way of toilet art, but sad too. It deserves captioning—funny thing, a lot of this art needs captioning—and the caption would be: “Oh God my life is so dull, please at least get me a ticket on those bateaux-mouches, please.”

Then come the big boys, the very worst of all being, of course, Picasso. Picasso is interesting because he never did anything new at all. Never. The stifling, soporific tradition of European high art, with its pears and bowls and girls who were pears and bowls too, was just fine with him, the way a tarantula is fine with one of those wasps that drags the poisoned spider into a den and injects it with its own eggs. Picasso was the exact counterpart of those hostile-takeover capitalists of the eighties who consumed the company for short-term gain.


So on the next page we have his Demoiselles d’Avignon: the same gaggle of well-fed European goose-girls posing with their arms in various breast-enhancing positions…only this time they’re blurry. Whoa, blurry nudes! It set the century on its aesthetic ear, those blurry nude girlies. Because they’re melted down to…whoa, just shapes! Except you can see they’re still pretty hot in a zaftig way—Picasso, as Jonathan Richman has noted, was a horny little commie. This, dear sirs and madams, was the breakthrough of the century on the high-art front: pedantry meets titillation, still-life frigs itself.

Worse yet, and somewhat to the side: the bastard Picasso is responsible for every bad move Stevens ever made. Seriously: if you know Stevens, you know what I mean. From the fucking pears to the far, far worse Blue Guitar—Stevens blathering about a guitar! Agh!—it’s always Picasso’s evil hand sketching away when Stevens goes bad, ensuring that the best prosodist in centuries was under permanent contract to a junk-bond credo.
And after the pedant we have the frat boys, the pranksters. Look, right below Picasso’s naked Ph.D. candidates is a picture of a pipe with the note that this is not a pipe. Reminds me of a line from Fight Club, a nice bitter visit to the world where all this got us: “Oh, I get it. It’s clever. How’s that working out for you, being clever?”


More pranks, one-shot gags, on the next page. Duchamp, who was nothing if not clever, and was indeed nothing.

Read more:, John Dolan, Books

Got something to say to us? Then send us a letter.

Want us to stick around? Donate to The eXiled.

Twitter twerps can follow us at


Add your own

  • 1. Copeland  |  July 18th, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Dolan, I’ve never read a more perfect dissing of great art. Describing Guernica, as you do, as being about “when our side kills”, makes pretentious idiots like me wilt.

    Imagine if some idiot (and there are lots of them) wrote a weepy comment like this: “I think you neglected the suffering that is implicit in in these works.” Or even more hilarious: “You can’t look at the art of Freida Kahlo and not see her pain or feel the strength in the hands that made those paintings?”

    I know, there are fools out there who really believe this stuff.

  • 2. chris  |  July 18th, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    that was just the post i needed to remind me to look for the donate link again

  • 3. John  |  July 18th, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Great article as usual Dr. Dolan. So when’s the next book coming out? Oh, and if you read this, you need to write some actual articles on Celine, or if you already have, then point us to them.

  • 4. wYSe Guy  |  July 18th, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    Wow, Soviet and Nazi art; I kinda understand what you mean. But Kemalist? What could those Muslims have to show us.

    John, if you could show us a version of what kind of pictures you think are good, that came out of the twentieth century, maybe we could see what you mean.

  • 5. Adam  |  July 18th, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    No, Pound made it into the American literature anthology, volume D (1914-1945), 1477-95. He’s not dead yet.

  • 6. אברהם  |  July 19th, 2009 at 12:54 am

    Hell yes another JD book review hallelujah

  • 7. Svealander  |  July 19th, 2009 at 1:14 am

    Good to see you’re back in work; hope it all works out ok.

  • 8. john  |  July 19th, 2009 at 4:52 am

    Hm. You write like a person who went to class. Why can’t things be simply enjoyed? I am reading Ullysess for the third time. I suppose you hate it. I went to school and did very badly. I couldn’t understand this book in college and don’t know how I could have. It simply isn’t cherishable in an acedemic setting. It requires a relaxed lucid disinterested state of mind. School is a long unwinnable game, in which to play is merely remain in the game – guessing correct responses to stimulae ( from a specific range of responses) and then performing the correct action of response. That is not a way to read Joyce. Or most of the rest. When you graduate, you earn the right to sneer. Or write for the New York Times. And hate the books you were supposed to love. Go read your Blake again, I say. You missed his point.

  • 9. jared  |  July 19th, 2009 at 6:55 am

    How exactly does academia work in regards to selecting textbooks? Are only the tenured professors allowed to pick what texts are to be studied? The adjunct professors have to design the course around texts they find laughably bad? If Dr. Dolan likes Celine so much, then why couldn’t he have an honors course for Celine?

  • 10. rick  |  July 19th, 2009 at 7:34 am

    For some reason I never read Naipal, but this is hilarious:

  • 11. Gaucho  |  July 19th, 2009 at 8:20 am

    Hey idiot Kemalists were anti-Muslim revolutionary secularists.

  • 12. Mark  |  July 19th, 2009 at 8:58 am

    I thought that Ulysses was specifically written for an academic setting, for the people who recognize the literary cues therein. It’s a triumph of form over substance. Like John Ralston Saul wrote, “There’s a lot of fly food in Ulysses and it was put there for the flies.”

  • 13. captain america  |  July 19th, 2009 at 9:02 am

    i thoroughly enjoyed this article, dr. dolan. it’s exactly this kind of stuff that made me veer from my original career goal (professor of comparative lit) to what i do now (IT).

    i second #4’s call for a follow-up with 20th century art you actually like.

  • 14. Copeland  |  July 19th, 2009 at 9:30 am

    There are different choices the person who comments here could make. Provided that they didn’t want to write something so idiotic that the moderators would be forced to improve the comments.

    I will be commenting here again, where my comment is improved over the half-baked idiotic comments I normally write. It is not only helpful for the proprietor to do improve my comments, it is instructive.

    I am too boring to have a blog that anyone else would leave a comment on. A better thing would have been not to publish my comment; I wish someone would say “fuck you” to me, but no one even notices.

  • 15. lowhighbrow  |  July 19th, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Dolan’s fans are pretty darned original. Me, I’m actually if there ever was a boring and repetitive writer. I talk about Picasso. I should shuttup. let’s have some silence for a change.

  • 16. Carlos  |  July 19th, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    I went through the table of contents. It is bottom heavy: a lot from before 1950. its “war light” in a century dominated by Mars. No Ernest Hemingway???
    We went to the moon and “I robot”, a single short story from that book didn’t make it?

    I pity the poor students thinking they are learning something of the XXth from that collection. They might as well read some Aesop. That was the atomic age. It doesn’t show.

  • 17. Anonymous  |  July 19th, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    John, first, school can be a way to teach skills. Taking a decent photo of something is fairly intuitive, writing a decent description of something takes a few years of grade-school English, and making a decent realistic painting from a written description or a dream often requires a little more education. And of course if you want to be a biologist or engineer or architect or mathematician, you’re learning even more quantifiable skills in school.

    Second, I want art that grabs my mind from wherever it is, excites my interest, holds my attention, and inspires me to think, not something that requires a relaxed lucid disinterested state of mind to be cherishable.

  • 18. Peter  |  July 19th, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    How exactly does Kemalist count as Muslim? The mullahs hated their guts and it was mutual.

  • 19. Allen  |  July 19th, 2009 at 2:11 pm

  • 20. Kavuye Toon  |  July 19th, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    re:John – here are two Céline reviews from the old exile site,

    Death on the Public Relations Plan

    A Bad Man Speaking Well

  • 21. cut it out  |  July 19th, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    Hey Dolan, you ever get any coed action during office hours? Or were you too busy reading fag shit?

    The only profs I ever respected were the Yes Men who were hanging around for first dibs on freshman tail.

    Actually reading books on a UC campus? Now that’s a tragic waste of a golden opportunity.

  • 22. john  |  July 20th, 2009 at 1:11 am

    I think I remember correctly Joyce saying he had packed the book with allusions and clues. I don’t think he did it specifically for academics. We grow wheat and that attracts rats but I don’t think we grow wheat for rats.

    Can you imagine Joyce teaching in a university? They would have fired him.

  • 23. john  |  July 20th, 2009 at 1:33 am

    Grade school is exactly where I didn’t learn how to write. Did they teach you how to write in school? I went to a nice pretty private school and a public school and niether actually taught description as you call it. They claimed to teach writing but frankly it was taught by bored academics who probably where thinking about Pound. I disagree. I don’t think people teach “description” as you so aptly call it. An excellent beginning is picking the right word for something. Lets call it “description,” how to convey what is on your mind. Lets use words and film and sound or what ever. But lets teach people how to communicate.

    And lets not do it for the grade. Lets write a paragraph and tear it apart. Lets pick something the student actually wants to say. Lets talk about lust and money and craving, greed – whatever the kid had got in his or her head. And let us leave it at that. Lets not have a grade. Let us simply explain that education is not a way of dividing a natural resource ( intelligence ) from the slag ( all the dumb kids ) for the use of people who want to make money. No. It is actually a way of making organized society spiritually viable. You read MIlton for love. If not for love. He is useless to you. Cast him into obscurity because he is nothing. You don’t like Pound? Burn him. Throw him into a vault and forget him. But for pity’s sake do not make Mr. Dolan teach him for money. That is the final corruption.

    Do ever wonder why we got The Dolt ( you know who I mean ) for a president? It wasn’t an accident. The Dolt is a sign of our decadance. If Dolan wants to teach Celine – all those kids will be healthier happier citizens if he does. And he will inspire them to engage in the greater effort. Teaching Anthologies is exactly the way Dolan will spread cynicism. Is it any wonder kids cheat so much these days? They should! The system deserves no respect.

    Norton’s Anthology? Use it to bash heads at Guantanamo. Its heavy enough. It is a symbol of what f***ups we have become. So Guantanamo is where it should be used. Crappy education produced it.

  • 24. Sunstein  |  July 20th, 2009 at 2:14 am

    In order not to get a penny in your jukebox, I have to say that I kinda like your style.

    Though, this article is not about opposing anything (usually eXiled tries to rebel, and thats why I like it, cause we all know we are permanently stuck in our teenage state of mind) it is basically about difference in taste.

    And yet time and time again we come to the same question: What is art and what is not? And after you answered that, you get to: What is good art and what not? What is wirth writing about?
    The essential rule of evaluating art, or at least it is one for most of profs, is :”Dont write about anything that didnt die at least 60 years ago”. (=go safe)
    Then you must concern yourself with one problem of the modern age, which can be described as “loss of center” in cultural streams. Meaning: time ago there were certain groups of people who qualified as “high art” i.e. Vienna Classic or The Russian School in music. You dont have that kind of concentration (centralisation) of art now.
    So the autor of the book has to do 2 things. Go safe, and eliminate most of the artists or writes, eliminating the newest ones and leaving only ones which he likes / sees as important / specialises in.

    Is art a matter of choice and filtering? To a person, definitely yes, but not to the supposedly all seeing eye of academia.

    Only thing that makes sense in this article is the notion that anthologies make no sense if they concern modern age (-> decentralisation of art). There is no way one single person, or even a selected group can grasp the whole volume of modern art.
    Only solution to this problem: if you MUST write an anthology, do it wikipedia-style (everybody is an author who may contribute to the “anthology”).
    So, Mr. Dolan, are you ready to correct the mistakes of foolish profs and serve the virtual justice of “art evaluation”, that is if you HAVE to evaluate art. Which is a different question alltogether.

  • 25. MQ  |  July 20th, 2009 at 6:52 am

    Traditional western art is not dry and soporific — the two big themes are sex and violence. It’s movies before the movies.

    This was kind of lame compared to Dolan on literature/poetry, where he truly knows his stuff. He’s veering close to the “my kid could do it” school. Better to do a review of an anthology of “great” 20th century lit.

  • 26. FatJoe  |  July 20th, 2009 at 7:28 am

    Funny you should mention Daffy Duck and The Scream: the only gallery I ever went to in the stucco-and-pastel nightmare city of Santa Fe was the Chuck Jones Gallery. There he had a bunch of fine art parodies he’d painted including a version of The Scream. Daffy and Bugs were advancing somberly across the bridge towards Elmer Fudd, each with signs pointing at each other saying “Rabbit Season” and “Duck Season”. Elmer clutched his face and shrieked. The painting was called “The Scweam.”

  • 27. Plamen Petkov  |  July 20th, 2009 at 9:57 am

    Wow, you certainly picked the easiest targets you could find: Frida and Picasso and Pond.
    Let me see you try to bitch about some real ho hums such as Hemingway or Diego Rivera or Maxfield Parrish or million others you could have chosen from.
    When we all can agree on what is “art” and what is “good art” then maybe we can start saying who was a “good” artist and who wasn’t. Until then it’s ALL personal choice.

  • 28. isamu  |  July 20th, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    ahahahahaha, John is too fixated by his hatred of Ezra to notice its a WORLD Lit. book and 90% of its contents were not originally written in English. Whoops!

    I hate every one of the artists he showcased in this article, but I’m clueless how to make my hatred interesting to others. Props, Dr. Dolan!

    yours in Christ,

  • 29. aleke  |  July 20th, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Picasso was never called an asshole!

    another great article. To understand 20th century writing, we should all remember apostle Schopenhauer:

    There are, first of all, two kinds of authors: those who write for the subject’s sake, and those who write for writing’s sake. The first kind have had thoughts or experiences which seem to them worth communicating, while the second kind need money and consequently write for money. They think in order to write, and they may be recognised by their spinning out their thoughts to the greatest possible length, and also by the way they work out their thoughts, which are half-true, perverse, forced, and vacillating; then also by their love of evasion, so that they may seem what they are not; and this is why their writing is lacking in definiteness and clearness.

    Consequently, it is soon recognised that they write for the sake of filling up the paper, and this is the case sometimes with the best authors; for example, in parts of Lessing’s Dramaturgie, and even in many of Jean Paul’s romances. As soon as this is perceived the book should be thrown away, for time is precious. As a matter of fact, the author is cheating the reader as soon as he writes for the sake of filling up paper; because his pretext for writing is that he has something to impart. Writing for money and preservation of copyright are, at bottom, the ruin of literature. It is only the man who writes absolutely for the sake of the subject that writes anything worth writing. What an inestimable advantage it would be, if, in every branch of literature, there existed only a few but excellent books! This can never come to pass so long as money is to be made by writing. It seems as if money lay under a curse, for every author deteriorates directly he writes in any way for the sake of money. The best works of great men all come from the time when they had to write either for nothing or for very little pay. This is confirmed by the Spanish proverb: honra y provecho no caben en un saco (Honour and money are not to be found in the same purse). The deplorable condition of the literature of to-day, both in Germany and other countries, is due to the fact that books are written for the sake of earning money. Every one who is in want of money sits down and writes a book, and the public is stupid enough to buy it. The secondary effect of this is the ruin of language.

    A great number of bad authors eke out their existence entirely by the foolishness of the public, which only will read what has just been printed. I refer to journalists, who have been appropriately so-called. In other words, it would be “day labourer.”
    -Arthur Schopenhauer, 1851; On Authorship and Style

    Of course, he didn’t live to see the art of journalism rear up for a decade or two (and now, arguably, still alive with a faint pulse here at the Exile). So that’s where I’d disagree with him, but otherwise it’s pretty sound. The need for social status is nearly as destructive to the art-forms as is the pursuit of profit, and so we find mostly lunatics and manics residing in the fields of true great art. It does not happen often and (as much as I like Joyce) it doesn’t happen for the sake of academia or money or indeed even the society. It happens on the peripheral of disenfranchised experience, in the realm of the manic creative god-spirit. The careerists are just as irrational as the capitalists, and likely cause just as much destruction.

    One day, perhaps if we aren’t yet graced by a catastrophic event (either brought upon by our own irrational folly, or a chance swipe from our malicious patron universe), we can hang the bankers high and their apologist academics low, and fly our black flags and bang our skin drums!

    Yours in Christ,

  • 30. Absurd  |  July 21st, 2009 at 5:52 am

    There’s delicious irony in posting a ranty critique of 20th century “greats” on a glorified e-zine.

    John Dolan would love to be anthologized, but lacks any real talent.

    Shitting on everything is easy.

  • 31. Slurm  |  July 21st, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    What’s wrong with the Gauguin ? Even if it was a mens room painting it’d be a pretty damn good one:
    While you diss it you actually start fantasizing about it. And the girls are ugly enough to be real.
    Instead you seem to prefer to spend your time whining along with an imaginary Celine.
    Wow – so dangerous to play with fascist imagery.
    To each his own – I for one prefer the nudes, my old altar boy.


  • 32. matthew  |  July 21st, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    Hi John… Funny… I’ve just started work at an Arts Trust in Auckland, run/owned by a rich old homo… this is me waking up again

  • 33. hyperbolus  |  July 21st, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    What a shitload of resentful, petit bourgeois, existentialist, (quasi-)fascist opinions. Celine? Check. Philip Dick? Check. Looney Tunes? Check. I bet Colin Wilson was an important “philosopher” for you. Maybe even Ayn Rand? And how come no mention of Mishima? I don’t like your targets any more than you do, but I can tell your opinions about art and culture are worth less than Hitler’s, which makes you at best a third-rate Nietzschean (and your fans no better than fourth-rate).

  • 34. aleke  |  July 22nd, 2009 at 12:47 am


    [vomits out of boredom]

  • 35. hyperbolus  |  July 22nd, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    No one who reads/quotes Schopenhauer vomits out of boredom. (I think I burped when I read your earlier, unbeknowst-to-you ironically long-winded, light-headed post–talk about boring vomit!) Oh, no doubt you vomit–a lot. In reaction to fresh air, sunshine, trees, grass, flowers, women, men, children, noise, crowded spaces, open spaces, life, etc. etc. Call it Sartrean nausea, if you like. The only cure is suicide.

  • 36. jared  |  July 23rd, 2009 at 8:27 am

    I think Frankfurt’s On Bullshit should be essential reading for this particular class. But again, how much freedom would an adjunct professor have in adding new reading material?

  • 37. aleke  |  July 23rd, 2009 at 12:36 pm


    Ah a simple boy with his clean industrialist air! Everything twirling in irrational hierarchies!

    I think the only cure is a vivacious thirst for the systematic brutal slaughter of you and your genetic legacy. Then maybe you can circle above your silly bloated husk of the Rational Actor for all eternity, essentialist irrationalist swine.

  • 38. Sunstein  |  July 23rd, 2009 at 5:02 pm


    *rolls up a joint*

    Guys, you should get your own show. It would be hilllaaaaarious.
    Lets callt it “dick and willie”… pretty please?

  • 39. hyperbolus  |  July 23rd, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    The only real criticism is Marxist criticism. Everything else is just part of the Great Capitalist Circle Jerk.

  • 40. jared  |  July 23rd, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    Hi. Great article. Just wanted to say I usually spend my time anonymously stalking you Dr. Dolan, because…I don’t know why actually. I feel like Salieri obsessed with your talent, but at least people knew who Salieri was, whereas I’m in the anon comments ghetto and always will be. Touche.

  • 41. hyperbolus  |  July 23rd, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    Including of course Nietzsche and his epigonzoes.

  • 42. aleke  |  July 24th, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    marxism is great but nihilism is more expansive

    [rolls the biggest joint]

  • 43. OUTRAGE  |  July 25th, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Whats wrong with Lentils???

  • 44. FOARP  |  July 26th, 2009 at 1:44 am


    Dolan is worth reading just for touches like this. For myself, I went to university in the UK, where all you study in university is what you, in your 18-year-old ignorance, decide to study as you degree topic. There are no majors or minors, only your degree subject, which you were until recently paid by the state to study. My choice of astrophysics, and then law, kept me safely away from arts classes such as those described above, so I know university arts only from the outside. What I know does not impress – the centre of their study seems to be those things most amenable to clever criticism, rather than admiration or condemnation. Even where condemnation is called for it will be ignored in favour of cleverness – see the average essay on Heart of Darkness and you will see cleverness in spades, but no condemnation of Conrad, and still less of the colonial system he describes.

  • 45. FOARP  |  July 26th, 2009 at 2:12 am

    I guess it’s also worth giving thought to who the founders of modern art-history study were. The fact that they included Anthony Blunt – Cambridge spy, ‘Apostle’, vicar’s son, mathematician/linguist, Knight of the Realm, friend of Michael Straight (owner/editor of The New Republic), and eventual turn-coat against his fellow spies – says something, I just don’t know what.

  • 46. running dog lackey  |  August 1st, 2009 at 7:49 am

    I suggest a warning label for every 20th century artwork and criticism thereof, as follows:
    WARNING – reproduction/criticism of 20th century arts subject to the bloodiest events in human history. Cynicism, naval-gazing subjectivity, horror, nausea and even suicide may result; unless of course you’re an historian in which case enjoy!

  • 47. ugg boots  |  September 8th, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    reproduction/criticism of 20th century arts subject to the bloodiest events in human history. Cynicism, naval-gazing subjectivity, horror, nausea and even suicide may result; unless of course you’re an historian in which case enjoy!

  • 48. adam  |  October 31st, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    Ok, so I’m really plumming the depths of eX-on when I get completely fucking steamrolled by the craven idiocy of #44.

    My god, could you imagine how HOD would read if this douche were Conrad’s editor? It would sound like james fucking frey!

    “They beat the poor savages”

    “I cried”

    “They were beating the poor savages!”


    They wouldn’t stop, and I’m crying.

    Crying, crying, crying.

    Soft sobs…

    Jokes aside, the condemnation of colonialism is in the man’s writing, goddammit! It’s right there, it’s so damn obvious. You just want him to come out and say it, forthright, so you can go to your buddies (tongue out and eyes rolling up) and say:

    “dar, hey guys, looky here! Conrad says “colonialism is wrong” right here on page 37! He’s not such a bad feller after all!”

    And even if he were colonialism’s poster boy, does that mean you ignore what he wrote? Condemning books… hmm what does that sound like?

    Is it your conscious or the company you keep that triggers the gag reflex with Conrad? Do you step outside and yell:

    “Beautiful day today. Oh, and just so everyone knows, Conrad is a racist, imperialist pig!”

    I’m trying to stop myself but I just can’t! HOD is nothing if not a brutal, honest description of the depravity of colonialism and it’s destructive effects on all involved. Conrad didn’t NEED to say that, he just had to write what he remembered and let the whole damn enterprise hang itself.

    Oh yeah, and he wasn’t a squeamish little shit, either. He wasn’t afraid to use the language of the times – otherwise you wouldn’t get a sense of what the average white man thought about his darker kin.

    You people are looking for Pixar in everything.

    Somebody – anybody! – push that big red button, now!

  • 49. adam  |  October 31st, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Also, HOD is a great fucking story! And no moralizing little imp is going to make it disappear! Not on my watch!

Leave a Comment

(Open to all. Comments can and will be censored at whim and without warning.)


Required, hidden

Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed