The Theater: Cultural Vandalism

In a novel called The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, the late Japanese writer Yukio Mishima told of a young man with such woefully abraded nerves that he feels asphyxiated by a sense of the past. He burns down a 14th century shrine because he cannot tolerate the weight of accumulated civilization. Cultural vandalism has not progressed that far in the West, but defacing and debasing the myths and masterpieces of the past are very much the vogue. The rules are simple: play it cute, play it camp, play it snide, but never, never play it straight. Recent examples include brilliant...

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