MANHATTAN – In news that has the arts world reeling, Wall Street Journal drama critic Terry Teachout exploded yesterday after consuming too much art.
In New York, art lovers are asking whether the fatal tragedy could have been prevented.
According to one art historian, “Most critics don’t eat art. But it has been known to happen from time to time. What’s surprising in this case is that Teachout actually wrote about his strange proclivities on the Internet."
Teachout’s weblog “About Last Night” featured periodic entries titled “Consumables,” in which Teachout listed the art he was consuming. In a recent entry, for example, Teachout admitted to chomping down the “bound galleys" of Robert McCrum’s Wodehouse: A Life, as well as Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time.
In another entry, Teachout admitted to “tasting” a three-CD anthology of Jack Teagarden’s jazz music.
One acquaintance, fiction writer Maud Newton, claimed to be shocked by what happened, even though she said she frequently read Teachout’s weblog.
“I should have put two and two together,” Newton said yesterday. “I ate lunch with Terry all the time, and I knew he had quite an appetite. I also knew he loved art. I’m still kicking myself for not realizing what was going on.”
"Terry's blog was really, really good," she added.
At the site of the explosion, men in coveralls have been working tirelessly to clean and sanitize the area. “It was a real mess,” said one worker. “I don’t claim to be smart enough to understand much of it, but I’ve found bits of several movie DVRs, the top part of a stand-up bass, two opera librettos, and several pages from Barbara Pym’s A Very Private Eye. All of it was quite chewed up.”
Only a few would admit to taking pleasure in the tragedy. Said one playwright, who asked not to be named, “Leave it to a critic to destroy art by eating it. So very vile.”
And in the town of Sikeston, Missouri, where Teachout grew up, one resident groused, “He was always referring to us as a small town. I got sick of hearing it. This ain’t New York, but at least we know to keep our art out of our mouths.’”
In lieu of flowers, a Teachout family spokesman suggested brightening a living room with a hardback copy of A Terry Teachout Reader.
“It’s what Terry would have wanted,” the spokesman said.
(Author's update: Thanks to the many who linked to this post. Details here.)