Robert Hughes was not a philosopher, psychologist or poet. He was an art writer and popular historian. His work sings when his eye is not on his own soul but on the world beyond him, both in the past and in the present. He was a shrewd, incisive, if occasionally rash, commentator, not only on the spectacle of skill but on that mad, motley, yet also wondrous circus we call 'culture.'
Some of its segments are far more polished than others – indeed, some are almost sloppy. Yes, the thing is billed as 'unpublished,' but much of it also often feels unready, which makes it an odd capstone to the publishing history of such a perfectionist as Hughes.
This large volume, welcome though it is, is unwieldy. The excerpts from some of Mr. Hughes’s other books — The Fatal Shore, about Australian history, Goya, Barcelona, Rome — rest uneasily next to his criticism and more personal writing. Out of context, these lumps feel undigested.