"From across the room the panels present a dull expanse of mustard and puce."
But this is a column in The Nation, so the question above is quickly replaced by: "That some anonymous billionaire acquired a new silver spoon to display at dinner parties may be boring or infuriating, but is it relevant?"
But is it relevant?! How old is that writer (Zoë Carpenter)? Her question was a laugh-line cliché in the 1960s. I mean, in my memory's eye, I see magazine cartoons with that caption... in The New Yorker, 2 sophisticates holding cocktails glance at a tray of hors d'oeuvres... in Playboy, a woman looks at a man's genitalia.... But is it relevant?
It made us laugh because But is it relevant? was what everyone was saying about everything.
This Nation piece, however, isn't funny at all. Ms. Carpenter makes me feel that any topic of seeming interest will be met with a grim face and a stern admonition to think about "the bleak fortunes of workers and the poor." Somebody was rich enough to bid the price of a triptych up to $142 million, but what does this mean about the potential to make "income inequality" the central concern of American politics?