A Haunting

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William Boyd’s short story “A Haunting” (Fascination, Vintage, 2006) nicely illustrates some of the uncertainties of a reader of fiction trying to distinguish factual background from imaginative creation.

Does contagion explain our preference for original works of art?

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Last week I commented on the view of Matthew Bown (TLS April 10 2015) that art works appeal to us in the way that saintly relics do: as traces of admired agents. A related view has been advocated for some time by the psychologists George Newman and Paul Bloom. They hold that a good deal of artistic valuing can be explained in terms of what is called magical contagion "people believe, perhaps unconsciously, that a person’s immaterial essence... can be transferred to an object through physical contact" (PNAS 2014).