I don't remember when I first met the great novelist Frederic Tuten, but I know I was with my friend, editor Karen Marta. And while Bookforum has called his work "some of the slyest and most beguiling fiction ever to be described as experimental," Tuten, the man, is the most charming and approachable that I have ever met. He grew up in the Bronx and left school at age fifteen to become a painter. He told Hans Ulrich Obrist about this decision in their fascinating interview: "I dropped out of high school with romantic notions of going to Paris and living in a little studio above a cafe and having a beautiful girlfriend. Everything would be free because the French were so generous and loved art and artists."
Since publishing his first novel in 1971, Tuten's short stories, art and film criticism have appeared everywhere from Artforum, Harpers and The New York Times to Vogue. Over the years, I've talked with him about love and art, and have read and re-read his writer"s credo. I also supported The New Inquiry's marathon reading of Tuten's first novel, The Adventures of Mao on the Long March, which brought together some of America's most notable artists, novelists, poets, musicians and filmmakers to recite the full text of his avant-garde masterwork.
Over the holidays, Frederic sent out this wonderful short story called HUO and the Angel. It was inspired by John Baldessari's cover design for the current issue of Surface, which I co-edited with Spencer Bailey. For the cover, Baldessari paired Wolfgang Tillmans' portrait of Hans Ulrich Obrist--the subject of the issue--with the angel from Tintoretto's Miracle of the Slave (1548).
HUO and the Angel
We plan to meet for breakfast at the terrace of a café on Avenue Montaigne at nine. Hans Ulrich Obrist is going to interview me. He is a legendary curator and his interviews and their astonishing range that have fixed in history what voices may otherwise have been lost. Now I see myself as part of that history, immortal, maybe, by virtue of the company I will keep in his books and archives. It's going to my head. Maybe there will be a little corner for me at the Père Lachaise.
I arrive minutes before nine. The terrace is empty. I look inside. A few stand at the bar drinking a pastis. At five after nine a very elegant and beautiful woman approaches me. It must be my aura of immortality that fascinates her. I smile, as one does to mortals.
"Are you waiting for HUO?" she asks. She is, too, it seems. And we chat. She is a translator from Chinese into French. She has lived in China. I want to marry her. But I'm distracted, wondering how long she will stay after HUO arrives--how long she will keep him and his tape recorder from me.
Then a man comes. I have never met him before but he seems to know me. His name is David Weiss, he has read one of my novels and says that HUO promised to introduce us. The woman knows him by reputation and says that she is honored to meet him. I wonder who he is.
HUO arrives with sunshine and two young Chinese artists...