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philosophy

Much Ado About Nothing: Review of Why Does the World Exist?

October 12, 2012

Mysteries small and great abound in Jim Holt’s new book—even in restaurants, where he spends an inordinate amount of time for an existential gumshoe. At a Paris bistro he dines alone on a plate of choucroute and a bottle of Saint-Emilion. A whiff of inscrutability suddenly wafts across the page: why would Holt choose a full-bodied red from Bordeaux rather than an Alsatian Riesling to accompany the famously heavy dish of that same region?

Window at Dia:Beacon in the Hudson River Valley.

Embeddedness: Robert Irwin in His Seventies

Hard to believe how I myself am now older, older by far, than Robert Irwin was when we first began having our conversations, coming on thirty years ago. Fresh out of college, a classic, overstuffed instance of surplus education, I had been working at the UCLA Oral History Program, editing other people’s oral histories of various local luminaries in the context of an NEH-sponsored series, “L.A. Art Scene: A Group Portrait,” when, working my way through someone else’s interview with this artist I had up to that point barely even heard of (which, granted, said more about me at the time than about him), increasingly engrossed, I decided to hazard writing the guy a note, which read, in its entirety, “Have you ever read Merleau-Ponty’s The Primacy of Perception?”