He is the man who left, but some of us won’t let him go. I mean Dave Hickey — the famous art critic who lived here many years before leaving in 2010. He cast a big shadow across Vegas culture, and so, whenever two or more gather in the name of art, there’s a good chance Hickey will come up. “Let’s move on!” someone suggested at a recent arts panel, but we haven’t quit him yet.
Now comes Pirates and Farmers: Essays on Taste, offering a fresh chance to decide how much we should care. (Note: I assigned him two of these pieces when I edited the Las Vegas Weekly.) The title derives from his belief that there are two kinds of people: farmers, who set boundaries and tend a patch, and pirates, who swash their buckles and damn the rules. If he name-drops more than usual in this book, and seems a bit too smug about his pirate bona fides — the endless drug-use memories, for example — there is always the sinuous bebop of his prose, plus a favorable idea-to-fluff ratio. But be warned: If you’re not up to speed on your art theory, it may be hard to keep up with some of the intellectual parkour. (I’m still panting.)
Vegas shows up occasionally, mostly as a pirate-friendly backdrop for his shots at the art world, though “Las Vegas for Sissies” is a nice defense of the city against the prudishness of outside cultural arbiters. It’s likely he’ll have more to say about us in his next book, Pagan America, due out, Amazon says hopefully, on Jan. 1. Let’s see what we think of him then.