It becomes fairly clear that Francis Picabia had a rather volatile and patchy talent as one reads this trite book immediately after “YESNO”. The impression that this entirely compliments the vagaries of his personality is
further confirmed by the many references to his friend Picabia by Marcel Duchamp in the book of dialogues reviewed elsewhere in this source book. However, where “YESNO” reinforces the meticulous humor of Picabia “WHO KNOWS” illustrates his weakness and redundant artifice.
A review of “WHO KNOWS” needs such a preface in order to lend comprehension to the dismal nature and paltry tedium of this Hanuman book. Twice the size and a fifth the satisfaction of “YESNO”, “WHO
KNOWS” proves once again, though unnecessarily, that size is no guarantee of pleasure. Where “YESNO” sparkles and shimmers; eliciting merriment and jaundiced guffaws of misanthropy, and is an exigent treasure trove screaming for consultation on even the most degrading of commutes and unfriendly of days; “WHO KNOWS” is a weedy, paltry, pathetic and pitiful collection. Concise is replaced with overblown; astute observation with blind sentimentality and wit with indulgent banality and torpor. Yes, dear reader, this small tome is a chilling example that most disastrous of collections, the vanity emasculator. Glamour has putrefied to leave an awful and tasteless stinking, brown sludge.
It is as if Picabia falls victim to a particularly modern folly of believing his own “hype”. Perhaps the editor and compiler Remy Hall became too enthused with the charm of the deceptively spontaneous one-liners of
“YESNO” and decided to demonstrate for posterity (which is, after all, 50% reliant upon the spectators engagement in this process if we are to believe Marcel Duchamp and others. And we DO!) the intellectual weight and acuity divinely possessing the “supermale” Francis Picabia in a feeble attempt to re-engrave his literary tombstone with an intellectually overextended and far more pretentious inscription. So disappointing. So disillusioning. So sad. So sad.
Now, don’t get me wrong! I maintain my position that one should always acquire ANY Hanuman Book no matter how obscure, dilettantish or brief as an absolute matter of principle. Certain heroic and obsessional activities transcend individual subjectivity. Nevertheless, this volume constitutes a somber reminder that there will inevitably be dross and ineffective artifice to file along the Hanuman way.