Cover image for Boggs, a comedy of values
Boggs, a comedy of values
Weschler, Lawrence.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chicago, Ill. ; London : University of Chicago Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xiv, 160 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HG353 .W47 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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In this highly entertaining book, Lawrence Weschler chronicles the antics of J. S. G. Boggs, an artist whose consuming passion is money, or perhaps more precisely, value. Boggs draws money-paper notes in standard currencies from all over the world-and tries to spend his drawings. It is a practice that regularly lands him in trouble with treasury police around the globe and provokes fundamental questions regarding the value of art and the value of money.

"Lawrence Weschler, who evidently admires [Boggs]-something not difficult to do-has written what may be the most extraordinary biography imaginable: "weird," to use a favourite Boggs word. It does something towards changing our entire outlook on money and its uses. And the reader is left with an uneasy feeling that anything in this world can be created by drawing it." --Ruth Rendell, Daily Telegraph

"As ideal a subject matter as money is for Boggs' genius, Boggs is as ideal a topic for Weschler's considerable talents. . . . A writer any less lucid than Weschler would smudge the lines, making of Boggs a counterculture caricature or a high-art huckster. And a writer any less confident would knock the balance, making academic mud pies of Boggs' enlightened chaos." --Jonathon Keats, San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

"[A] witty and engaging chronicle. . . . Weschler's fascinating account of the artist as agent provocateur demonstrates both the significance of Boggs's art and his determination to continue his unusual critique of the idea of money." --Henry Wessells, Washington Post Book World

"[A] witty, excellently written account of a bizarre and fascinating snippet of modern life." --Paul Ormerod, Times Higher Education Supplement

"The book, like the artist, challenges people to pause and consider the extent to which the economic bedrock of everyday life is in part a confusing welter of artistic abstractions. It's a work that is at once informative, entertaining, and provocative-a reading experience, one might say, of rather good value." --Toby Lester, Atlantic Monthly

"[A] fascinating tale, especially in these days of fluctuating currency rates, the euro, and inexplicable Net-stock valuations." --Paul Lukas, Fortune

Lawrence Weschler, a recipient of the prestigious Lannan Literary Award for 1998, is the author of numerous books, including Calamities of Exile: Three Nonfiction Novellas , and Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder , which was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Just what is money worth? Or, what is the value of value? Funny questions, maybe, but they are central to the figure at the heart of Weschler's latest paper chase of a profile. J.S.G. Boggs is a slow-change artist. He draws legal tenderÄwith varying degrees of realismÄand attempts to spend it: at restaurants, hotels, airports, convenience stores and galleries around the world. He has been arrested for his aesthetic endeavors, stalked by British treasury cops, had his work confiscated by the Secret Service and been detained by baffled proprietors. Boggs's artÄa brand of conceptual performance with roots in Duchamp and WarholÄis contingent upon the abysses of logic that open up when people are asked to accept his counterfeit bills not as actual money (Boggs isn't a con man), but as art. As art, of course, they are worth something. An anomaly, if not a minor celebrity, in certain corners of the art world, Boggs serves Weschler well as a springboard for thoughts on the protean nature of both art and money. With meandering brilliance and levity, Weschler delves not only into the outlandish antics of Boggs the provocateur, but also into the history of banking, the development of paper money and the valuation of art. One of the great, and usually convincing, spinners of true tales that seem tall, Weschler writes in an erudite yet nimble styleÄitself a great service to the popularization of ideas. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Weschler, a New Yorker writer who has written books on idiosyncratic, eccentric individuals (Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonders, LJ 10/1/95), here turns his attention to J.S.G. Boggs, an American artist who specializes in drawing money. Boggs not only creates these art works but also exchanges them for food, goods, etc.; the transaction itself (including receipts and change received) makes up the complete work of art that is ultimately exhibited in galleries. The book studies Boggs's career and artistic theories, focusing on his run-ins with officials of the Bank of England and U.S. Treasury agents who take a dim view of his copies of their currency. Also examined are the depictions of money by other artists over the centuries and how Boggs's obsession reflects the relationship between money, art, and value. Recommended for all larger library collections, particularly those that specialize in modern art studies.ÄMorris Hounion, New York City Technical Coll., CUNY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

I A Fool's Questions
II ""Morons in a Hurry""
AfterwordZeno's Jester and Mad Hatter