THE INVISIBLE DRAGON: ESSAYS ON BEAUTY (revised and expanded edition) by Dave Hickey (Chicago/London: The University of Chicago Press), 2009, 123 pp.
Fellow fans of art critic Dave Hickey should be alerted to the fact that an extensively upgraded edition of his 1993 book The Invisible Dragon has recently appeared that seems to be almost twice as long as its predecessor, with a new introduction and an additional essay, “American Beauty,” that’s considerably longer (over 50 pages) than any of the four essays in the first edition. Even if you find the new introduction, written entirely in the third person, a mite off-putting, the new essay reaffirms Hickey as a major critical voice and terrific prose stylist. I’m not sufficiently well-versed in art history to be able to judge it confidently on those terms, but the erudition on display is pretty daunting, to say the least.
I discovered Hickey thanks to film scholar Dudley Andrew through Hickey’s extraordinary 1997 collection Air Guitar (see below) a radically populist and semiautobiographical look at pop culture that remains a particular favorite–although I subsequently bought Hickey’s two collections of short stories, the 1989 Prior Convictions and the 1999 Stardumb, that I’m still intending to read. Many other Hickey pieces are to be found scattered in various art magazines, and in various books about art and Las Vegas (where he lives and works as a professor of English) whose prices tend to make them more prohibitive for casual purchase. Years ago, at the Locarno International Film Festival, while I was having breakfast with filmmaker and writer Chris Petit, and he asked me for Manny Farber’s contact information, I recall highly recommending Air Guitar to him, so I was later delighted to find him interviewing Hickey along with Manny in his wonderful 1999 video Negative Space. Clearly Hickey is someone who qualifies eminently as a Subject for Further Research. [3/19/09]