Internautica: Hoaxers, Philip Johnson and the building of turds, Always Florida


  1. There are practical jokes, there are heteronyms, there are the people with axes to grind, there are hoaxers. Louis Menand’s review of Christopher L. Miller’s “Impostors: Literary Hoaxes and Cultural Authenticity”is about how hoaxers are multitudinous: some are just jokers, some are serious, some think they are proving a point about gullibility, some want to “move the dialogue” – move it, usually, to some tight, stupid white right place. It is interesting that the political ideology of the famous literary hoaxers is usually to the right, if they have one. I wonder why? Would it be that hard to make up a Jordan Peterson write-alike and spring it on the incel masses? It would be fun and, really, pointless. More interestingly, hoaxers often seem to hoax people in the communities they fake: Danny Santiago, a Chicano author who turned out to be a whitebread LA communist, was not fingered by the Chicano community, but by his buddy, John Gregory Dunne. And so on. To me, the most startling paragraph in Menand’s review is this one:

A more complicated case is “The Radiance of the King,” a novel published in French in 1954 and in English two years later. The author was a Guinean writer named Camara Laye, and the story is set in Africa. It was received as a leading work in African literature. In 2001, Toni Morrison published a piece in The New York Review of Books in which she called “The Radiance of the King” “an Africa answering back.” It gave us, she said, “Africa’s Africa”—that is, it passed the authenticity test. But there had been rumors right from the start that Laye had not written the book, and Miller, reviewing the scholarship, concludes that “The Radiance of the King” was likely written by a former Nazi collaborator from Belgium named Francis Soulié. Laye evidently agreed to go along, and put his name to it.


2. I once worked in a Philip Johnson building, temping on the Yale Campus in the Kline Biology building. It was a horrible brickish structure, which I always though looked like it was made out of giant dog turds. The wind situation created by the height and depth of it was terrible. It probably looked good as a mockup. So I have a grudge against the glass box champion. He was, naturally, a favorite of go-getting Texas millionaires (at the time, they were millionaires). A Dallas architecture critic has written his biography. Here’s D magazine’s review.


Philip Johnson has had an outsize influence on American culture and American cities—and not just because he designed a skyscraper in nearly every single one. Johnson rewrote the rules about what art and architecture mean. He set the tone for how patrons and politicians think about the value and purpose of architecture. As a result, the very contradictions and conflict that define the architect’s character have somehow also come to define American cities of the 20th century, especially Dallas.

Lamster did not want to write a book about Johnson. When the idea for the biography was suggested to him by his agent, Lamster says, his first reaction was that he didn’t want to walk around “with Philip Johnson in my head for two to three years.” “That was nine years ago,” he adds with a laugh.


I would not want to walk around with Philip Johnson in my head, either. Incidentally, toss Tom Wolfe’s lamebrain book about the “white gods” from Bauhaus corrupting our American architectural tradition in the trash, if you have it around. Wolfe was singularly ignorant about art history – when it suited him. In fact, the malign synergy between the rich and the architects is a Wolfian subject that cannot be subdued to a rightwing angle – hence, the lack of Wolfe’s answer to Fountainhead. A serious failure on his part, a confrontation of what he hated – glass boxes – with the men he loved – rich white swinging dicks.


3. Sarah Viren’s essay about Florida, Florida in bits and pieces, is an album of that curious and curiouser state, Dixie’s California. My own Florida impressions all come from going down there with my parents when I was a kid. Since those days, at least ten million more people have trampled into the state, and the government, with characteristic Dixie vileness, has shit hard on the environment with the expectation that when disaster happens, other people will clean it up. Florida is a good state for murders, pedophilia, money laundering, and half-assed coups.

Here’s a good bit:


What is clear is that Florida has long been a place to which new people blow in, and sometimes blow back out: Spanish explorers, fanatical naturalists, escaped slaves, Confederate army deserters, outlaws, Cuban exiles, Caribbean refugees, tourists, and, of course, snow birds.

The Ringling Brothers blew into Florida, too. Originally from Iowa, they started buying up land in the 1910s and within ten years they owned nearly a quarter of the city. I went to college on land that had once been theirs and took classes in their former mansions. Human Evolution was in a second story bedroom that looked out on the Sarasota Bay, and Twentieth Century Art History took place in their pink and blue carriage house. It was in a newer building, though, that I took a class called “Florida As Home” and first read Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ memoir Cross Creek.

Rawlings, who is best known for writing the Yearling, was also a transplant to Florida. She grew up in Washington D.C., but in her 30s she used a small inheritance to move to North Central Florida and buy an orange grove. Cross Creektells the story of that grove and Rawlings’ gradual understanding of Florida as place.

“We at the Creek draw our conclusions about the world from our intimate knowledge of one small portion of it,” she writes in a chapter called “Who Owns Cross Creek?”



I am a translator, author and editor living in Paris. I finished a novel in March, and am busy trying to find an agent. In the meantime, I thought I'd like to start a magazine. Willett's is meant to be a venue for the review of books, personal reflections, and political bitching - and everything else.
About Roger 78 Articles
I am a translator, author and editor living in Paris. I finished a novel in March, and am busy trying to find an agent. In the meantime, I thought I'd like to start a magazine. Willett's is meant to be a venue for the review of books, personal reflections, and political bitching - and everything else.

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