Something of Art

In Something of Myself, his 1935 autobiography, Kipling remembers that when he was a young man, working for the English newspaper in the Punjab, "I no more dreamed of dressing myself than I did of shutting an inner door or—I was going to say turning a key in a lock. But we had no locks." Then follows a definition of ultimate luxury, "luxury of which I dream still." It is a definition which I have tested on a number of persons of my acquaintance, if only to see whether they would be able to comprehend it in all its vastness, and all of them have admitted that they cannot. With the reader's permission, I shall keep the magician's white handkerchief draped over the birdcage for a few moments longer.

In a recent issue of Vanity Fair, a man introduced as "a top information-age entrepreneur"—which is how one might think of introducing Lorenzo de' Medici—describes how he bought himself a private jet. He writes anonymously, because to his top information-age mind the shame of being thought a sybarite is greater than the exultation of being considered rich. Indeed, much of the story of his $I2-million purchase and refurbishment of the Gulfstream III (yes, an interior designer called Ms. Guice puts in an ostensibly long-legged appearance) is a kind of college sophomore's simulacrum of a moral argument involving a furtive, shamefaced, mournfully subjective conscience...

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