It was interesting to read Ross Douthat’s column in the NY Times this morning who noted that most people that bash George Bush don’t take note of the nuance of the situation–Saddam’s evil nature, the W.M.D.’s, the United States desire for some sort of action to avenge 9/11. “The Abyss of Human Illusion” by Gilbert Sorrentino, takes note of how multiple characters see each other in decidedly different manners than which they either think or expect. Sorrentino understands that nuance, at least within the minds of his characters, is almost impossible to clearly understand.

Nuance in furniture making is about the craftsman’s effort. A craftsman who understands this is one that makes the effort to make his furniture special be it through the quality of the timber, the proportions, the carving, finish or even form. For example, Windsor chairs are more valuable when they are made of yew wood. The same could be said of walnut pieces that are made with burr rather than straight grain timber. Such nuance is quantifiable, albeit to a practiced eye and it is, most decidedly, what separates antique from modern furniture.

Political positions like George W. Bush’s reasons for starting the Iraq War are certainly not black and white, even though it is likely that the ultimate assessment of the war will be black or white. That is the historian’s revenge or triumph depending on which side of the line they want to fall. Oddly, it is the Republicans who fault Obama for his nuancing of issues, his alleged inability to be absolutely black or white about anything. Whatever he does is socialist and wrong. Irony must be a conservative pundit’s secret vice.


The madcap adventures of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac’s, “On the Road”, bespeak an America that is awakening to a new era, one of movement, music and incomprehensible actions. The crisscrossing of the United States, from New York to San Francisco and back again by the two protagonists at frantic speeds is quintessentially provincial and naive. Hardly a moment is spent on reflection. The sheer energy that the protagonists shed speaks volumes about the essential nature of America after World War II.

Naive English furniture refers to furniture that is made by craftsmen who vaguely understand a fashionable genre and abstracts it to his own conception often with extraordinary and unique details. The native English furniture, for example, made just after the restoration of Charles II to the throne in 1660 often demonstrates a lack of any sophisticated thread of style. England had cut itself off from the international design scene and the upshot was often unique, made once or twice and never made again. The provincial-ness of such work could be naive and could be charming or not. It is always interesting when viewed in the backdrop of English furniture history.

The concept of naive or provincial seems as if it should be less meritorious just because it does not have the same history of development that something sophisticated might have. Nothing could be further from the truth. Naive may be crude, even rude, but it should never be dismissed. That value might not be quite so obvious, but in the energy of Kerouac’s characters, indeed in naive English furniture as well, there is a developed world, albeit an imperfect one. That may be the best understanding of all.


I have often wondered who, politically speaking, should like antiques? Should conservatives revere the past and therefore like antiques or should liberals only want the new and find antiques too retrospective? Is this a simplistic exercise on my part without rhyme or reason?

I don’t think so. Almost every political position is borne of a desire to achieve a comfort zone of some sort. Anarchists, for example, prefer chaos, whereas any -ism wants a system that optimizes who they are. It should not be a stretch to think that antiques have to fit in with one of these groups somewhere.

It is intriguing to wonder whether ideology predicates preferences away from politics. Is the preference for anything, politics included, a function of our nature? The concept of choice palls at the thought that there is none. That is something that every conservative and liberal should think about.