Mark Helprin was born in New York City in 1947. He was educated at Harvard University and Magdalen College, Oxford. His books include A Dove of the East and Other Stories, Ellis Island and Other Stories, and two novels, Refiner's Fire and Winter's Tale. He lives in New York.

If New York no longer suffers the "lead" in the fine arts and in literature, this may be partly because of the sensibility that would perceive leads and lags in these things, measuring their rise and fall by the quantitative data pertinent to cultural institutions, and by the lazy, dull, and common wisdom that makes for reputation.

What you are talking about, really, are numbers and fleeting opinions—how many artists, books, shows, tickets, and museum days, and how much self-congratulation? What do the cliques say? Who is currently safe to admire? What is the number of...


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