on acceptance

Tender Buttons has made it into a Modern Library selection of Gertrude Stein’s writing, but how many people have actually read it and of those how many can claim to have gotten anything at all from it? Despite lip service, her achievement, though present, is somehow endangered, and it will be a long time before a true evaluation of it will be possible. Matisse’s work is secure; Gertrude’s and Picasso’s, ubiquitous as it is, remains excitingly in doubt and thus alive. This is why the show of the Steins’ collections turns out to be not only very beautiful but at times almost painfully exciting to witness.”

(John Ashbery, “Gertrude Stein”, originally in ArtNews, May 1971, collected in Reported Sightings: Art Chronicles 1957–1987, p. 111)

moravia interviewed

“Like Kierkegaard said, if man is not desperate, he should be. But he must live with it, not die. That seems right to me. I’m against suicide. I favor the Stoic idea that one must live with desperation. It’s also a Christian thing. A real Christian must be desperate. To accept being desperate is not a compromise. It means to live in desperation. To accept desperation means simply not to kill oneself. It doesn’t mean to live in peace. Desperation is a serious matter and requires a certain amount of play-acting as a way to live with desperation. The main thing is not to bother others.”

(From an interview with Alberto Moravia by Gaither Stewart, quoted in an article in Critique which seems to have lost most of its header information. Other pieces by him there: interviews with Dacia Maraini, Federico Fellini, Umberto Eco, and Natalia Ginzburg, as well as a piece on the Etruscans.)

menu 14

“A dream party of some of the most celebrated people of the day, whom one can never hope to meet, or, if met, be remembered by: Einstein, Mr. Charles Chaplin, Freud, Virginia Woolf, Stella Benson, Mussolini, P. G. Wodehouse, Mistinguett, Lydia Lopokova and Jean Cocteau.










(from Ruth Lowinsky, Lovely Food: a cookery notebook, 1931, The Nonesuch Press, London, pp. 54–55. This particular menu is llustrated with a drawing of “flat circles of chromium-plated metal arranged in tiers pierced for candles between which the heads of flowers are placed” by Thomas Lowinsky.)

a story, predictably enough

MARGARET. All right, Grandma ’ll tell us a story.


Once upon a time there was a poor little boy who had no father and mother; everything was dead and there was no-one left in the whole world. Everything was quite dead, so he went off, whimpering. All day and all night. And since there was no-one left on earth he decided to go up to heaven where the moon shone down so kind. But when he got to the moon it was a lump of rotten wood. Then he went to the sun, but when he got there it was a withered-up sunflower. And when he got to the stars they were little spangled midges stuck there, like the ones shrikes stick on blackthorns. So he went back to the earth, but the earth was an overturned pot. He was completely alone, and he sat down and cried. He’s sitting there still, all alone.”

(Georg Büchner, Woyzeck, p. 31, trans. John Mackendrick)

attempts at apollinaire


À Madame René Berthier



To Madame René Berthier


(The New Directions edition of Apollinaire, translated by Roger Shattuck, is a facing page edition, but while the French version is laid out as Apollinaire published the poem, there’s been no attempt to lay out the English version. Thus this. These have both been put together in Adobe Illustrator; they’re not accurate to the original &ndasd; presuming that New Directions accurately copied the layout themselves! – because I eyeballed the layout; the type isn’t the same, and the alignment isn’t perfect. Will fix this later.)