the endless book

“In his designs for bookbindings and jackets, Duchamp often made user of the continuity between front and back: in the chess book L’Opposition et les cases conjuguées sont reconciliées, 1932; in the designs for Hebdomeros and Ubu, executed by Mary Reynolds, 1935; in the cover made for Anthologie de l’humour noir, 1940; in First Papers of Surrealism, 1942; in VVV Almanac for 1943; in Le Surréalisme en 1947; in Jaquette, the rejected jacket design for Rudi Blesh’s Modern Art USA; and in his own exhibition catalogues for Pasadena, 1963 (Bib. 70), and Cordier & Ekstrom, 1965 (Bib. 72). In 1922, Duchamp and Rrose Sélavy planned an endless book: ‘a round book i.e. without beginning or end . .  with the back made of rings around which the pages turn’ (Bib. 24, no. 66). This idea took shape as Some French Moderns Says McBride (Bib. 6)”

(Ecke Bonk, Marcel Duchamp: The Portable Museum, note 22, p. 162.)

to bypass the market

“With the signing of the agreement concluded between the Arensbergs and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, on 28 December 1950, Duchamp’s work, almost in its entirety, reached the care of a public collection without ever coming into contact with the art market. Duchamp’s comment: ‘I never had such a feeling of complete satisfaction.’ ”

(Ecke Bonk, Marcel Duchamp: The Portable Museum, p. 19.)

beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror

“Norbert A’Campo of the University of Basel once asked Grothendieck about something related to the Platonic solids. Grothendieck advised caution. The Platonic solids are so beautiful and so exceptional, he said, that one cannot assume such exceptional beauty will hold in more general situations.”

(Allyn Jackson’s Comme Appelé du Néant— As If Summoned from the Void: The Life of Alexandre Grothendieck”, Notices of the AMS, vol. 51, no. 10, November 2004, p. 1194.)

attabled with the spinning years

Does it mean one thing with work,
one with age, and so on?
Or are the two opposing doors
irrevocably closed? The song that started
in the middle, did that close down too?
Just because it says here I like tomatoes,
is that a reason to call off victory? Yet it says,
in such an understated way, that this is a small museum
of tints. I’m barely twenty-six, have been on “Oprah”
and such. The almost invisible blight
of the present bursts in on us. We walk
a little farther into the closeness we owned:
Surely that isn’t snow? The leaves are still on the trees,
but they look wild suddenly.
I get up. I guess I must be going.

Not by a long shot in America. Tell us, Princess A-Line,
tell us if you must, why is everything territorial?
It’s O.K., I don’t mind. I never did. In a hundred years,
when today’s modern buildings look inviting
again, like abstract bric-a-brac, we’ll look back
at how we were cheated, pull up our socks, zip
our pants, then smile for the camera, watch
the birdie as he watches us all day.
His thematically undistinguished narrative gives no
cause for complaints, does one no favors.
At night we crept back in, certain of acquittal
if not absolution, in God’s good time, whose scalpel redeems us
even as the blip in His narrative makes us whole again.

(John Ashbery)

as if they had lost them themselves

“I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtle-dove and am still on their trail. Many are the travellers I have spoken concerning them, describing their tracks and what calls they answered to. I have met one or two who had heard the hound, and the tramp of the horse, and even seen the dove disappear behind a cloud, and they seemed as anxious to recover them as if they had lost them themselves.”

(Thoreau, “Economy” in Walden.)

synergetics 529.10

“It is one of the strange facts of experience that when we try to think about the future, our thoughts jump backwards. It may well be that nature has some fundamental metaphysical law by which opening up what we call the future also opens up the past in equal degree.”

(Buckminster Fuller, quoted on p. 90 of Guy Davenport’s “Wo es war, soll ich werden” in The Drummer of the Eleventh North Devonshire Fusiliers.)

a difference of phase

“It follows from this that tauromachy can be taken for the typical example of an art in which the essential condition of beauty is a difference of phase, a deviation, a dissonance. No aesthetic pleasure would thus be possible without there being violation, transgression, excess and sin in relation to an ideal order serving as a rule; nevertheless absolute license, like absolute order, could only ever be an insipid abstraction devoid of meaning. Just as lurking death gives colour to life, so sin, and dissonance (which contains the seeds of, and suggests, possible destruction) confers beauty on the rule, extricates it from its state of fixed norm and turns it into an active, magnetic pole from which we move away or towards which we tend. Just as regret for lost innocence gives flavour and fragrance to vice, so order, the rule (which acts like a force of compression) is as necessary to the fulgurating blossoming of the left-sided element as is a fulcrum to the action of a lever. And so reappearing here and there in the imaginary tangential point (a limit towards which we tend, but which, like the torero, we finally avoid, a total revelation – a complete tangency to the world and to ourselves, a fusion of our entire being with the whole – only able to transpire at the instant of death) are the two ascending and descending branches of the curve, an image of that continual rocking motion which, when we perceive it clearly, strikes us with ecstasy and dizziness because it is, without doubt, the most fitting symbol of what is in truth the bedrock of our passionate life.”

(Michel Leiris, Mirror of Tauromachy, trans. Antony Melville, pp. 43–44.)

not even improper

“Fleming did most of the talking. He ended up by asking us if we knew the definition of a gentleman. He waited and then said slowly:

‘A gentleman is a person who uses the butter-knife when he’s alone.’

He looked at us triumphantly and we tried to force a laugh. My growing dislike crystallized. It was degrading to have to laugh at anything so suburban and B.B.C. It wasn’t even improper, and I’d been preparing my face for something dirty!

I turned to Paul, saying it was time to get ready for dinner.”

(Denton Welch, Maiden Voyage, p. 100.)

that’s not bad

“Well, I opened the door. The Doberman came at me raging and snarling and generally carrying on in the way he felt was expected of him. I threw him a fifty-five-pound reinforced concrete pork chop which knocked him silly. I spoke to Constanze. We used to walk down the street together bumping our hipbones together in joy, before God and everybody. I wanted to float in the air again some feeling of that. It didn’t work. I’m sorry. But I guess, as the architects say, there’s no use crying over spilt marble. She will undoubtedly move on and up and down and around in the world, New York, Chicago, and Temple, Texas, making everything considerably better than it was, for short periods of time. We adventured. That’s not bad.”

(Donald Barthelme, “The Abduction from the Seraglio”, p. 95 in Great Days.)