John Bernard Myers: Tracking the Marvelous: A Life in the New York Art World; Random House, New York.

Books — paper ones, not those cassettes that are now hanging on racks in bookstores for the busy executives who would like to listen to a paragraph or two while not making deals on their cars’ cellular telephones — are mute. The reader must bring his internal ear and silent voice (“Don’t move those lips!” we were all enjoined) to bear on the words so that they not only mean but resonate. While a talk show appearance or a connection via MCI might prove the case, the implication of the contents of Tracking the Marvelous is that John Bernard Myers regularly pronounces the key word with a very soft “a” and a very long “r”: “Mar-r-r-r-r-velous.” Listen:


“Let is note the hate of the marvelous which rages in certain men. Let us not mince words: the marvelous is always beautiful, anything marvelous is beautiful, in fact, only the marvelous is beautiful.”

If we didn’t know that this passage was from Myers, we might suspect that it was spoken by Lee Liberace or Boy George.

People love “insider gossip.” Last May, for example, hardcover best-sellers on the New York Times list included Ed (“I Love E.K.”) Koch’s Mayor and Joan (“I’m not bad for 50”) Collins’ Past Imperfect. Arty types are not particularly interested, we suppose, in seedy, smoky politics or slimy, steamy bedroom scenes — at least they are not publicly interested. They are, however, fascinated by the goings on of artists, and Myers, who arrived on the New York art scene in the early 40’s and who was to operate his own gallery, personally knew or knew about all of the big ones: Pollock, de Kooning, Rothko, etc. Myers inadvertently provides the best assessment of his own project: “Someone remarked I had a real talent for ephemera. … I accepted this as a compliment.”    cc