Nothing New

“The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.” So begins a novel by Samuel Beckett. In art, novelty can’t stand inspection, because every work has precursors, but works are new not because they are new but because they feel new. And the feeling of ever-early freshness is humor—which could be called perspective. This is why moldy figs and young fogies who tut-tut about irony and claim themselves authentic, sincere and true are so dull, and make dull flavored work. So we still have a small hair to split, which is that just because nothing is ever entirely new, it doesn’t follow that there are universal, eternal and supreme values in art.

Paul Cézanne, Cardplayers 1892-95

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