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Long-time writer for the New Yorker

Previous Visit
October 20, 1999

Boggs: A Comedy of ValuesJ. S. G. BOGGS

Reproduces currencies by hand with remarkable precision

Previous Visit
October 20, 1999

The Writer PBS Series, Channel 17
Sunday at 2:00 p.m.

November 19, 2000

J. S. G. Boggs reproduces currencies by hand with remarkable precision and then barters his handiwork in lieu of cash for goods and services. His works include U.S. dollars, British pounds, Swiss francs and other bills. No run-of-the-mill counterfeiter, Boggs persuades merchants to voluntarily accept the phony bills at face value, and to give him change in real currency. The artist's real profits derive from what happens next: Boggs sells the change from each transaction and information regarding the whereabouts of each bogus bill to art collectors who pay up to six figures for the privilege of tracking down and obtaining it. The Bank of England has taken Boggs to court to challenge the legitimacy of his artistic enterprise, and the U.S. Treasury has expressed grave concerns.

Lawrence Weschler, long-time writer for the New Yorker, chronicles the work and antics of currency artist J. S. G. Boggs in Boggs: A Comedy of Values (1999, ISBN 0-226-89395-2). Toby Lester, writing in The Atlantic Monthly, says ". . .the book, like the artist, challenges people to pause and consider the extent to which the economic bedrock of everyday life is in part a confusing welter of artistic abstractions. It's a work that is at once informative, entertaining, and provocative--a reading experience, one might say, of rather good value."

Weschler is also the author of Calamities of Exile (1998), essays on the lives of three political exiles and their opposition to totalitarian regimes, and Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast and Other Marvels (1995), which was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 1998 he was a recipient of the prestigious Lannan Literary Award

"Lawrence Weschler is a wonderful writer--his writing has humor, intelligence, tolerance, curiosity, and a kind of lightly held grace." - Larry McCurtry

"Against a disparate background (trompe l'oeil painting, the Secret Service, ritual sacrifice, the Swiss equivalent of Chanukah gelt, etc.), Lawrence Weschler spins the tale of the fascinating J. S. G. Boggs, artist and philosophical con man. Weschler's purposely rich and wonderfully elaborate tale is delivered with professorial, infectious, handwringing glee." - Ricky Jay

"A fascinating story of artistic dare-deviltry, and of the shared delusion we call money. Mr. Weschler is an excellent writer." - Ian Frazier

"One thing that makes Lawrence Weschler different from most writers is the sheer glee he communicates. This book is complete pleasure. It's also a perfect mix of funny and serious: a little frolic with someone who does things that seem irresistibly fun, and, at the same time, raise vast questions about something we all take for granted. I found myself reaching into my wallet, pulling out a ten-dollar bill and just staring at it, trying to see the blank paper under the green and black ink, trying to understanding what makes money money." - Ira Glass, Host of This American Life

Additional works by Lawrence Weschler

book book book book book

Additional Links:
Writers Online Magazine Article
Lawrence Weschler, Nonfiction Panel Participant 10/21/99
University of Chicago Press

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at https://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.