Abigail Susik and Rosalind Krauss at the LARB:
I have a story in my book about Greenberg that relates to this idea of charms and to formalism. In his book Sade, Fourier, Loyola (1971), Barthes talks about the style of a great writer as the writer’s “charm.” Once, after Greenberg had died, I was asked to be part of a panel at Harvard University in honor of the 80th anniversary of Greenberg’s birth. Heading to Boston on the train I thought, “I can’t be part of this panel celebrating Greenberg and trash him.” I had trashed him, for instance, in The Optical Unconscious — the last part about Jackson Pollock was meant to demolish Greenberg. So, I asked myself, what can I say about Greenberg at Harvard that won’t be hypocritical but will be positive? Then I thought about Barthes’s notion of charm.
One of the charms of Greenberg’s writing was that he hated Latinate terms. He only wanted to write with Anglo-Saxon single-syllable words. One of these words was “stuff.” When he gave a lecture called “After Abstract Expressionism” at the Guggenheim in the ’60s, at a certain point he said that Pollock had “lost his stuff” in the late work, and the audience got very upset, of course.