An episode of the sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond" has sportswriter Ray Barone's mother Marie creating a large white abstract sculpture, which she gives to her son, who is forced to put it in his living room. Immediately, the whole Barone family goes nuts because the sculpture looks exactly like a set of labia. Only Marie continues to think that her work is "spiritual" and abstract.
Well, only former Whitney curator Larry Rinder must think that his art world roman à clef, Revenge of the Decorated Pigs, is actually a novel and not a seedbed of easily identifiable New York art-world characters preying on Rinder's self-identified protagonist, curator Kevin Forrester, an ingénue who took over the Sacramento Museum at 23 during a staff layoff, doesn't particularly care for Andy Warhol's work (though he likes Dieter Roth), doesn't read Artforum (which, in real life, actually lionized Rinder), likes being on the road in unpretentious motels, thinks that "The Quilts of Gee's Bend" is a radical artist's statement and falls in and out of same-sex fondles with various art-world predators like an East Village Candide.
Barely disguising the powerful New York arties whom we all know and love, Rinder's camouflage technique combines an easily recognizable figure with some other figure's marked attribute. Thus, we are given a rather uncharitable description of Si Newhouse, with bits of Ron Lauder thrown in, or a randy roll in the mouth with a Ross Bleckner doppelganger who shares the seductive piano-playing skills of Caio Fonseca.
Rather insecurely, Rinder, through Forrester, constantly seeks to re-establish his bona fides, whether it is having Jeff Koons personalize one of his hoops photographs for the boy Rinder or mixing up the droll jokes with the grande dame Soulange Bouche, really Louise Bourgeois. There are a few touching moments in Pigs, such as when Forrester spins a Duchamp bicycle for a group of schoolchildren or mounts a dashing banker on top of James Turrell's Roden Crater, but generally the prose is so syrupy and soap opera-y that one regrets that "Dynasty's" John Forsythe, who died last week, couldn't stick around to play Tweed (a Maxwell Anderson character, who, as Rinder's Whitney boss, is treated with the sympathy a psychiatric nurse might give an autistic patient) or perhaps Soulange Bouche.
Overall, the twee delight in "identifying" marginal characters based on Thelma Golden, Marian Goodman and Agnes Gund quickly evaporates in the torrent of real names from Henry Kissinger to David Rockefeller that Rinder feels compelled to drop. The overall effect is that of Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho minus the Psycho. Outsiders in and out of the art world will be once again reassured that the rich and tasteful remain indulgently dull and ill-suited for the action and character development of a real novel. But even Ray Barone could have told you that.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).