Well, it seems no one cared enough about Dr. Jonathan Fast or his book “Ceremonial Violence” to publish the review in which I excoriate him for sloppy research work. (Among other sins, he cited aliases in my book “Gone Boy” as if they were real characters, never having bothered to do even rudimentary primary source work.) Surprisingly, there was more interest in the idea that works like “Ceremonial Violence” are part of a burgeoning quasi-pornographic genre of “serious” books about serial killers, mass murders and school shootings. Such writings are pornographic in that they purport to educate us on issues of violence, when in fact one of their primary functions is arousal – that strange titillation we get when we are exposed to bizarre and terrifying human behavior. This may be no more than a desire to normalize the unthinkable, but if anyone doubts that it’s going viral, turn on Fox Murder-News any night, or go to Amazon Books and type in “School Shootings.” Last time I tried it 4057 hits came up.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Freaks are stirring. A reporter for the Maine Antique Digest emailed me the news that Bayo Ogunsanya told her he expects a settlement with Bob Langmuir by February 10th. If true, that would open the way for Bob to begin negotiating with Phillips de Pury & Co. about the contract he signed with them and the mysterious cancellation of the auction in which his Arbus-Hubert’s archive was to be sold.
However, while Bob was playing liar’s poker with Bayo, big changes were taking place at Phillips. Last fall a high end Russian retail group called Mercury bought a controlling interest in Phillips de Pury & Co. Simon de Pury remained with the firm as executive chairman, but Joseph Kraeutler, one of the geniuses who engineered the deal for the Arbus-Hubert’s archive, is gone. According to Linked In, he’s now in the financial services industry. A man named Bernd Runge will be taking over artistic direction of the auction house, a move that raised a few eyebrows. According to Artforum.com, “Runge worked as a spy, code-named Olden, for the East German Stasi secret police from 1981 to 1989… Phillips said it was aware of Runge’s involvement with the Stasi. ‘It’s not something that clouds his achievements… or his ability to do the job here.’”
Just another day at the office in the world of high art.