February 22nd, 2012 / 5:32 pm

Faking it

20th century Dutch art forger Han van Meegeren (d. 1947)  painted Vermeers and others so convincingly, he duped buyers, including Netherlands officials, an estimated $30 mil (adjusted for today) dollars; most notable of his doings was selling one to Hermann Göring, for which he was arrested by the Dutch government under charges of “collaboration” with the Nazi party, and taken to trial. Ironically, his defense to charges against selling Dutch cultural property (i.e. Vermeer) to the Nazis was that Göring’s recent acquisition had been a forgery, hence not cultural property. Two wrongs, it seems, does make a right. Fortunately, Göring was at Nuremberg at the time and had bigger worries. At the last day of the ruling, even though charges had been dropped, the painter had a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital, at which he had another fatal one three days later. This may have been ringing around in William Gaddis’ mind when he wrote The Recognitions (1955), in which one Wyatt Gwyon realizes he can make more money forging Dutch masters than making originals. Gaddis’ indictment of what would be postmodernism worried itself in a classical context. Under this Faustian pact (the novel, a much shorter version, was initially conceived as a parody of Goethe’s Faust), he slowly loses his identity and completely disappears in the middle of the novel. Gaddis — smart, bitter, both repulsed and smitten by his society, obsessed with documenting its minutiæ — may have found a descendent in Larry David, whose relatively conceptually vigorous and poplulace-friendly shows Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm seem to me the funnier and perhaps existentially more dire version of a Sartrean “No Exit,” the former collaborators endlessly shouting at one another inside a room, free to simply leave, but never doing so (same goes for The Real Housewives series) — enter empowered and feminist-y Elaine Benes, loosely based off Richard Yates’ daughter Monica, who, in a twist which writes itself, Larry David once dated. When fiction is authenticated by real life, people are appeased, as if what we really wanted all along was the truth. Per the 65th episode in which Elaine brags about never having an orgasm with Jerry, we can only wonder who that inspiration was. A morose pessimist jackhammers his way to ecstasy in under two minutes, and a woman accompanies it with a forgery. Two wrongs, again it seems, does make a right.


  1. Brian M

      Gaddis sounds like a type of fly for fly fishing.

  2. lorian long

      jack hammer, what a tool

  3. reynard
  4. Anonymous

      digging these posts. keep’em coming.