The Essential Dignity of Literature

Why have you defaced a picture of Thomas Mann?

Something to do.

Does it not strike you as crude?




What were your motivations?

It’s folk art. I’m a genius.

No it isn’t. You aren’t.

I prefer Hermann Broch. I wished to express my preference.

Have you read the book you just linked to?

In what sense read?

What if I were to tell you that picture was in fact of Heinrich Mann?

It would upset me.


Because I wanted to deface a picture of Thomas Mann.

The picture is not of Heinrich Mann.

I don’t care.

Why does Mann have ‘Mum’ written on his forehead?

It’s a tattoo. He had a tattoo done to show how much he loves his mum.

Why does he have both vampire teeth and a monster bolt? Is this not some kind of contradiction?

Because he’s a Dracula and a Frankenstein.

Isn’t one of the classic tropes of picture defacement the Hitler moustache? Were you not tempted…

That would have been an insult to Mann’s committed anti-fascism.

Were you tempted to use green for the bogies?

No. My art is pure.

Wait a minute…

Who’s this?

It’s Robert Lowell!