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Classic Recordings
Robert Altman Week

Tuesday
Nov232010

In Which We Are Taught The Resignation Of Being Borges

The Whole World Was Looking At Him

I was unhappy during my adolescence, but the truth is that I wanted to be unhappy. I wanted to be a Prince Hamlet, a Raskolnikov, I even wanted to be a Werther, and possibly did become one, but now I realize that I was acting a bit, as young romantics act, as do all "angry young men." These are romantic games, vain, and I would say unimportant. Now I don't know whether I feel resigned or not, but I feel relatively happy. Perhaps because now I am more or less who I am. I know my limits. I know there are many things that I should not try to do, I believe I know what I should write, or rather what I can write. When I was young I knew that I was going to be a writer. At the same time I felt limited and didn't know what kind of writer I was going to be.

Oscar Wilde's 1888 story The Happy Prince is about a metal statue who befriends a bird. At the age of nine, Jorge Luis Borges translated it into Spanish. By 12 he was reading Hamlet, by 15 he wanted, as he says above, to become the Prince of Denmark. Due to a genetic disease, Borges was totally blind by his fifties, but although he could no longer himself read, he continued his writing. His mother was his personal secretary for most of his life, and before her death at the age of 99 she twice attempted to marry off her blind son to a woman who would take care of him. Was he the metal statue, or the bird? Borges gave one of his most extensive interviews to the short story writer Richard Burgin, although some questions from his other interviews are also included in the transcript that follows.

Q: Was there ever a time when you didn't love literature?

JORGE LUIS BORGES: No, I always knew. I always thought of myself as a writer, even before I wrote a book. Let me say that even when I had written nothing, I knew that I would. I do not think of myself as a good writer but I knew that my destiny or fate was a literary one, no? I never thought of myself as being anything else.

Q: You never thought about taking up any career? I mean, your father was a lawyer.

JLB: Yes. But after all, he had tried to be a literary man and failed. He wrote some very nice sonnets. But he thought that I should fulfill that destiny, no? And he told me not to rush into print.

Q: But you were published when you were pretty young. About twenty.

JLB: Yes, I know, but he said to me, "You don't have to be in a hurry. You write, you go over what you've written, you destroy, you take your time. What's important is that when you publish something you should think of it as being pretty good, or at least the best you can do."

with italo calvinoQ: When did you begin writing?

JLB: I began when I was a little boy. I wrote an English handbook ten pages long on Greek mythology, in very clumsy English. That was the first thing I ever wrote.

Q: You mean "original mythology" or a translation?

JLB: No, no, no, no, no. It was just saying, for example, well, "Hercules attempted twelve labors" or "Hercules killed the Nemean Lion."

Q: So you must have been reading those books when you were very young.

JLB: Yes, of course. I'm very fond of mythology. Well, it was nothing, it was just a, it must have been some fifteen pages long... with the story of the Golden Fleece and the Labyrinth and Hercules, he was my favorite, and then something about the loves of the gods, and the tale of Troy. That was the first thing I ever wrote. I remember it was written in a very short and crabbed handwriting because I was very short-sighted. That's all I can tell you about it. In fact, I think my mother kept a copy for some time, but as we've traveled all over the world, the copy got lost, which is as it should be, of course, because we thought nothing whatever about it, except for the fact that it was being written by a small boy. And then I read a chapter or two of Don Quixote, and then, of course, I tried to write archaic Spanish. And that saved me from trying to do the same thing some fifteen years afterwards, no? Because I had already attempted that game and failed at it.

Q: Do you remember much from your childhood?

JLB: You see, I was always very short-sighted, so when I think of my childhood, I think of books and the illustrations in books. I suppose I can remember every illustration in Huckleberry Finn and Life on the Mississippi and Roughing It and so on. And the illustrations in the Arabian Nights. And Dickens - Cruikshank and Fisk illustrations. Of course, well, I also have memories of being back in the country, of riding horseback in Estancia and Uruguay in the Argentine. I remember my parents and the house with the large patio and so on. But what I chiefly seem to remember are small and minute things. Because those were the ones that I could really see. The illustrations in the encyclopedia and the dictionary, I remember them quite well. Chambers Encyclopedia or the American edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica with the engravings of animals and pyramids.

Q: So you remember the books of your childhood better than the people.

JLB: Yes, because I could see them.

Q: Have you corresponded much with other writers?

JLB: No.

Q: I didn't think you had. You've been more solitary.

JLB: And besides, I'm a very poor letter writer. For example, I'm awfully fond of my mother. I love her. I'm always thinking about her. And, of course, I have to dictate my letters. But even when, for example, while I am away from her, I always send her very trivial letters. Because somehow I feel that she knows what I am feeling and that I have no need to say anything, that I can just be trivial and cheerful and commonplace and that she will know exactly how I am feeling. So that the letters I send her - sometimes they are even postcards to help me out - I suppose they are quite meaningless to anybody else, and yet there is a kind of secret writing between us, although we've never spoken about it. She knows me and I know her. I think that I might spend six months without a letter from her and if I knew that she was well, I wouldn't be worried about it. And she would feel much the same way about me. Of course, I might be worried because she might be ailing or something might have happened to her. But if I know from all sources that she's getting on, I don't have to worry about what she says, and she doesn't have to worry about what I say.

Q: She must be a remarkable woman.

JLB: She is a remarkable woman. She was in prison in Peron's time. My sister also.

Q: You noticed something very interesting about Don Quixote. That he never does kill a man in all his adventures, even though he often engages in fights.

JLB: Ah yes! I wonder about that.

Q: And then you wrote that parable.

JLB: Well, I suppose the real reason or the obvious reason would be that Cervantes wanted to keep within the limits of farce and had he killed a man, then the book, then that would have been too real, no? Don't you think so? I mean if Quixote kills a man, then he somehow is a real, bad man, whether he feels himself justified or not. I don't think Cervantes wanted to go as far as all that, no? He wanted to keep his book within certain bounds, and had Don Quixote killed a man that would have done Cervantes no good.

Q: Also, there's the idea you've mentioned that the author at some time in the book becomes a main character. So perhaps Cervantes couldn't bear to kill a man himself, if he became Don Quixote.

JLB: Yes, yet I suppose he must have killed many in his life, as a soldier. But that's different, no? Because if a soldier kills a man, he kills him impersonally, no? Don't you think so? I mean if you kill a man as a soldier you don't really kill him. You're merely a tool. Or somebody else kills him through you or, well, you don't have to accept any responsibility. I don't think a soldier feels guilty about the people he's killed, no? Except the men who threw the bomb on Hiroshima.

Q: Well, some of them have gone insane, some of those people who were involved with the bomb.

JLB: Yes, but somehow, now I suppose you are, I shouldn't say this to you, I'll be blurting it out.

Q: Well, say it.

JLB: I can't think of Hiroshima as being worse than any battle.

Q: What do you mean?

JLB: It ended the war in a day. And the fact that many people are killed is the same fact that one man is killed. Because every man dies his own death and he would have died it anyhow. Then, well, of course, one hardly knows all the people who were killed in Hiroshima. After all, Japan was in favor of violence, of empire, of fighting, of being very cruel; they were not early Christians or anything of the kind. In fact, had they had the bomb, they would have done the same thing to America.

Hold it, I know that I shouldn't be saying these things because they make me seem very callous. But somehow I have never been able to feel that way about Hiroshima. Perhaps something new is happening to mankind, but I think that if you accept war, well I should say this, but if you accept war, you have to accept cruelty. And you have to accept slaughter and bloodshed and that kind of thing. And after all, to be killed by a rifle, or to be killed by a stone thrown at you, or by somebody thrusting a knife into you, is essentially the same. Hiroshima stands out, because many innocent people were involved and because the whole thing was packed into a single moment.

with j.g. ballard in 1972Q: Had you read much before you started to write or did your writing and reading develop together?

JLB: I've always been a greater reader than writer. But, of course, I began to lose my eyesight definitely in 1954, and since then I've done my reading by proxy, no? Well, of course, when one cannot read, then one's mind works in a different way. In fact, it might be said that there is a certain benefit in being unable to read, because you think that time flows in a different way. In fact, it might be said that there is a certain benefit in being unable to read, because you think that time flows in a different way. When I had my eyesight, then if I had to spend say half an hour without doing anything, I would go mad. Because I had to be reading. But now, I can be alone for quite a long time, I don't mind long railroad journeys, I don't mind being alone in a hotel or walking down the street, because, well, I wouldn't say that I am thinking all the time because that would be bragging.

I think I am able to live with a lack of occupation. I didn't have to be talking to people or doing things. If somebody had gone out, and I had come here and found the house empty, then I would have been quite content to sit down and let two or three hours pass and go out for a short walk, but I wouldn't feel especially unhappy or lonely. That happens to all people who go blind.

Q: What are you thinking about during that time - a specific problem or -

JLB: I could or I might not be thinking about anything. I'd just be living on, no? Letting time flow or perhaps looking back on memories or walking across a bridge and trying to remember favorite passages, but maybe I wouldn't be doing anything, I'd just be living. I never understand why people say they're bored because they have nothing to do. Because sometimes I have nothing do, and I don't feel bored. Because I'm not doing things all the time, I'm content.

Q: You've never felt bored in your life?

JLB: I don't think so. Of course, when I had to be ten days lying on my back after an operation, I felt anguish but not boredom.

Q: You're a metaphysical writer and yet so many writers like, for example, Jane Austen or Fitzgerald or Sinclair Lewis seem to have no real metaphysical feeling at all.

JLB: When you speak of Fitzgerald, you're thinking of Edward Fitzgerald, no? Or Scott Fitzgerald?

Q: Yes, the latter.

JLB: Ah, yes.

Q: I was just naming a writer who came to mind as having essentially no metaphysical feeling.

JLB: He was always on the surface of things, no? After all, why shouldn't you, no?

Q: Of course most people live and die without ever, it seems, really thinking about the problems of time or space or infinity.

JLB: Well, because they take the universe for granted. They take things for granted. They take themselves for granted. That's true. They never wonder at anything, no? They don't think it's strange that they should be living. I remember the first time I felt that was when my father said to me, "What a queer thing," he said, "that I should be living, as they say, behind my eyes, inside my head, I wonder if that makes sense?" And then, it was the first time I felt that, and then instantly I pounced upon that because I knew what he was saying. But many people can hardly understand that. And they say, " Well, but where else could you live?"

Q: Do you think there's something in people's minds that blocks out the sense of the miraculous, something maybe inherent in most human beings that doesn't allow them to think about these things? Because, after all, if they spent their time thinking about the miracle of the universe, they wouldn't do the work civilization depends on and nothing, perhaps, would get done.

JLB: But I think that today too many things get done.

Q: Yes, of course.

JLB: Sarmiento wrote that he once met a gaucho and the gaucho said to him, "The countryside is so lovely that I don't want to think about its cause." That's very strange, no? It's kind of a non sequitor, no? Because he should have begun to think about the cause of that beauty. But I suppose he meant that he drank all those things in, and he felt quite happy about them and he had no use for thinking. But generally speaking, I think men are more prone to metaphysical wondering than women. I think that women take the world for granted. Things for granted. And themselves, no? And circumstances for granted. I think circumstances especially.

Q: They confront each moment as a separate entity without thinking about all the circumstances that lead up to it.

JLB: No, because they think of...

Q: They take things one at a time.

JLB: Yes, they take them one at a time, and then they're afraid of cutting a poor figure, or they think of themselves as being actresses, no? The whole world looking at them and, of course, admiring them.

Q: They do seem to be more self-conscious than men on the whole. Your writing always, from the first, had its source in other books?

JLB: Yes, that's true. Well, because I think of reading a book as no less an experience than traveling or falling in love. I think that reading Berkeley or Shaw or Emerson, those are quite as real experiences to me as seeing London, for example. Of course, I saw London through Dickens and through Chesterton and through Stevenson, no? Many people are apt to think of real life on the one side, that means toothache, headache, traveling and so on, and then you have on the other side, you have imaginary life and fancy and that means the arts. But I don't think that the distinction holds water. I think that everything is a part of life. For example, today I was telling my wife, I have traveled, well I won't say all over the world, but all over the west, no? And yet I find that I have written poems on rather drab street corners. And I have never written poems on a great subject, I mean on a famous subject. For example, I greatly enjoy New York, but I don't think I would write about New York. Maybe I'll write about some street corner, because after all so many people have done that other kind of thing.

Q: What novelists do you think could create characters?

JLB: Conrad, and Dickens. Conrad certainly, because in Conrad you feel that everything is real and at the same time very poetical, no? I should put Conrad as a novelist far above Henry James. When I was a young man I thought Dostoevski was the greatest novelist. And then after ten years or so, when I reread him, I felt greatly disappointed. I felt that the characters were unreal and that also the characters were part of a plot. Because in real life, even in a difficult situation, even when you are worrying very much about something, even when you feel anguish or when you feel hatred — well, I've never felt hatred — or love or fury maybe, you also live among other lines, no? I mean, a man is in love, but at the same time he is interested in the cinema, or he is thinking about mathematics or poetry or politics, while in novels, in most novels, the characters are simply living through what's happening to them. No, that might be the case with very simple people, but I don't see, I don't think that happens.

Q: Do you think a book like Ulysses, for example, was, among other things, an attempt to show the full spectrum of thought?

JLB: Yes, but I think Ulysses is a failure, really. Well, by the time it's read through, you know thousands and thousands of circumstances about the characters, but you don't know them. And if you think of the characters in Joyce, you don't think of them as you think of the characters in Stevenson or in Dickens, because in the case of a character, let's say in a book by Stevenson, a man may appear, may last a page, but you feel that you know him or that there's more in him to be know, but in the case of Ulysses you are told thousands of circumstances about the characters. You know, for example, well, you know that they went twice to the men's room, you know all the books they read, you know their exact positions when they are sitting down or standing up, but you don't really know them. It's as if Joyce had gone over them with a microscope or a magnifying glass.

Q: You've linked Henry James and Kafka before — you seem to associate them, in your mind for some reason.

JLB: I think that there is a likeness between them. I think that the sense of things being ambiguous, of things being meaningless, of living in a meaningless universe, of things being many-sided and finally unexplained; well, Henry James wrote to his brother that he thought of the world as being a diamond museum, a museum of monsters. I think that he must have felt life in much the same way.

Q: And yet the characters in James or Kafka are always striving for something definite. They always have definite goals.

JLB: They have definite goals, but they never attain them. I mean, when you've read the first page of The Trial you know that he'll never know why he's being judged, why he's being tried, I mean, in the case of Henry James, the same thing happens. The moment you know that the man is after the Aspern papers, you know, well, either that he'll never find the papers, or that if he does find them, they'll be worthless. you may feel that.

Q: But then it's more a sense of impotence than it is an ambiguity.

JLB: Of course, but it's also an ambiguity. For example, "The Turn of the Screw." That's a stock example. One might find others. That's a stock example. One might find others. "The Abasement of the Northmores" — the whole story is told as a tale of revenge. And, in the end, you don't know whether the revenge will work out or not. Because, after all, the letters of the widow's husband, they may be published and nothing may come of them. So that in the end, the whole story is about revenge, and when you reach the last page, you do not know whether the woman will accomplish her purpose or not. A very strange story.... I suppose that you prefer Kafka to Henry James?

Q: No, they stand for different things for me.

JLB: But do they?

Q: You don't seem to think so. But I think that Henry James believed in society, he never really questioned the social order.

JLB: I don't think so.

Q: I think he accepted society. I think that he couldn't conceive of a world without society and he believed in man and, moreover, in certain conventions. He was a student of man's behavior.

JLB: Yes, I know, but he believed in them in a desperate way, because it was the only thing he could grasp.

Q: It was an order, a sense of order.

JLB: But I don't think he felt happy.

Q: But Kafka's imagination is far more metaphorical.

JLB: Yes, but I think that you get many things in James that you don't get in Kafka. For example, in Henry James you are made to feel that there is a meaning behind experience, perhaps too many meanings. While in Kafka, you know that he knew more about the castle or about the judges or the trial than you do. Because the castle and the judges are symbols of the universe, and nobody is expected to know anything about the universe. But in the case of Henry James, you think that he might have had his personal theories or you feel that he knows more of what he's talking about. I mean that though his stories may be parables of the subject, still they're not written by him to be parables. I think he was really very interested in the solution, maybe he had two or three solutions and so in a sense I think of Henry James as being far more complex than Kafka, but that may be a weakness. Perhaps the strength of Kafka may lie in his lack of complexity.

Q: Do you accept the linking of your name with Kafka, and do you enjoy being linked with Kafka?

JLB: I think Kafka taught me the way to write two quite bad stories, "The Library of Babel" and "The Lottery of Babylon." Of course I owe a debt to Kafka. Naturally. I enjoyed that. At the same time, I couldn't go on reading Kafka all the time so I left it at it that. I only wrote two stories following the pattern and then I left off. Of course I owe much to Kafka. I admire him, as I suppose all reasonable men do.

Q: In the "Library of Babel" you insert a word spelled thusly: Qaphqa. I think the only way to pronounce that is Kafka. Did you put that in there to show that you were aware that you were writing like Kafka?

JLB: Yes. Of course I did.

Q: What do you admire especially in Stevenson?

JLB: I admire everything in Stevenson. I admire the man, I admire the work, I admire his courage. I don't think he wrote a single indifferent or despicable line. Every line of Stevenson is fine. And then there is another writer I greatly admire: Chesterton. And yet Chesterton would not have been what he was had it not been for Stevenson. For example, if we read Chesterton's Father Brown saga or The Man Who Was Thursday, or "Man Alive," we get the same fairy London that was invented or was dreamt by Stevenson in his New Arabian Nights. I suppose I should be thankful to Stevenson. I suppose we should all be thankful for Stevenson. I hardly see why you ask me that. The thing is as obvious as the sun in heaven.

Q: In Cincinnati when an admirer said, "May you live one thousand years," you answered, "I look forward happily to my death." What did you mean by that?

JLB: I mean that when I'm unhappy, and that happens quite often to all of us, I find a real consolation in the thought that in a few years, or maybe in a few days, I'll be dead and then all this won't matter. I look forward to being blotted out. But if I thought that my death was a mere illusion, that after death I would go on, then I would feel very, very unhappy. For really, I'm sick and tired of myself.

"John Henry" - Delta Spirit (mp3)

"The Flood' - Delta Spirit (mp3)

"Gimme Some Motivation" - Delta Spirit (mp3)

 

Monday
Nov222010

In Which Harry Potter Answers An Unwelcome Call of Nature

The Boy Who Needed Two Parts

by KARA VANDERBIJL

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
dir. David Yates
146 minutes

Watching the first part of the last installment of J.K. Rowling’s celebrated series and sitting through a very long plane ride are uncannily similar. In both cases the tickets cost too much and the food is bad and overpackaged. An unwelcome call of nature inevitably leads to embarrassing encounters with your neighbors’ knees. Your worst enemies are screaming children and giants. The only reason you put yourself through all of this is because it is taking you somewhere you want to be: namely, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, which brings me to the issue at hand.

Why is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in two parts? I have a sneaking suspicion that this is the franchise's way of rudely gesturing at its current archrival, Twilight, the fourth installment of which — you guessed it! — is in two parts and also comes out next year. Still, a contest between which love triangle or battle for the universe will win more millions seems a tad immature, although appropriately so. Few books, and even fewer films, are made for something as outdated as cultural, historical or aesthetic significance.

Drawing attention to the resemblances between Twilight and this most recent installment of Harry Potter could scarcely benefit anyone. It is obvious that they resemble each other. If you don't believe me, just think about how from now on, anything including a love triangle and shirtless magical beings will allude to them both. I would much rather ponder about what it is, exactly, that makes Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (now I know why most people just say HP7) a bore.

It started out so well! They had us early on — they had us when we were ten in 2001, and we were so easily lured. We were drawn in by our own naiveté and the fact that, like Harry, the thing we knew best was the inside of our own closet. And we found out, like The Boy Who Lived, that there is just a small step between learning what you are and engaging in what will cost you your life — that is to say, your life.

One of the most entertaining aspects of Harry Potter was watching Harry and his friends grow up; it is sobering to realize they are now adults. Did you notice how many times parents and relatives are outdone by their offspring? Hermione doesn't give her parents much of a choice when the Dark Lord comes: she Obliviates them. Harry sends his relatives off packing; even Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy cower behind Draco a few times. As such, Harry and his peers become rebels much in the same way that Voldemort did. It is only the confines of the movie’s plot preventing them from going berserk, drunk on power.

Well, not quite. When the trio infiltrates the Ministry of Magic looking for a locket horcrux, it is amusing not only because of the famous Polyjuice Potion plot device but also because the potion gives them bodies that they wear badly, like new clothes. This discomfort characterizes the whole movie, mostly in scenes involving Harry and Hermione together. They look curiously childish, especially during a scene in which Harry pleads with his best friend to destroy the horcrux. As the locket explodes and Voldemort's soul seeps out, Ron is confronted with his worst nightmare: a world in which he is not needed or wanted. Spectres of Harry and Hermione engage in an embrace which expresses what they feel but don’t dare express, trapped as they are in that strange space between childhood and adulthood.

This partially funny, partially painful tension between Harry, Ron and Hermione strikes a chord in the film that it never did in the book, since the film version of Harry constantly attempts to come onto her where his print counterpart was content with Ginny. The extended slow dance in the tent between Harry and Hermione, as well as their almost-kiss will spawn a decade's worth of fanfiction among faithful Harry/Hermione supporters. Never mind that the film could have been doing something much more interesting at this point. As always, Ron's inexhaustible comic relief throughout is comforting, proving once and for all that even after ten years some things never change. Ultimately, this is why Hermione will end up with him. Everything comes back to logic.

Meanwhile Harry pulls a Bella Swan and claims he's not worth dying for (conveniently after Mad-Eye already has), and also begins to engage in self-destructive behavior. I lost several imaginary extremities to imaginary frostbite every time I saw him diving into freezing water and walking around barefoot in the snow.

Speaking of clothes, the wizards are substantially underdressed for the weather. Only an Urban Outfitters model (and hobbits) can pose in snowy climes barefoot and wearing nothing but a pea coat, thank you very much. Later, the cast dons flannel and jeans on the beach while mourning the death of a house elf. I had forgotten that part from the book, but was so distracted by Harry's wet denim and sandy knees (pet peeve!) that I could not sympathize.

Visually, Yates' direction doesn't disappoint. The spirited animation of the tale of the three brothers constitutes a welcome refuge from the film's ubiquitous forest settings. Forlorn landscapes reminiscent of Forks, US of A engage in an almost Romantic entanglement with Harry's moods. At one point, I could have almost sworn Yates replicated Wanderer above the Sea of Fog. The magical creatures are fewer in this film than in previous ones, which is probably why they felt forced.

When Kreacher appeared, I wanted to ask why there was an elf in the cupboard, and then remembered where I was. And like anything else, Voldemort was far scarier when nobody said his name and when he didn't have a corporeal body. The faceless intruder in your closet is always scarier than the one you can identify. He is especially (and only) scary when you can't remember what films he had a nose in and when he played Heathcliff opposite Juliette Binoche.

We saw far too much of him, and far too little of all the people I really wanted to see: Harry’s parents, Snape (although we did see his Patronus), and a fully clothed Ginny Weasley. I suppose that we will have to wait another six months for the real fun to begin, and by that I mean that we will actually be able to shed this dust jacket of a first part and dive into the crooked binding of J.K Rowling’s imagination, if you will excuse the poorly executed metaphor. See you in 2011. 

Kara VanderBijl is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. You can find her previous work on This Recording here. She last wrote in these pages about Rene Magritte. She tumbls here.

"Talk You Down" - The Script (mp3)

"Breakeven" - The Script (mp3)

"The Man Who Can't Be Moved" - The Script (mp3)

Friday
Nov192010

In Which I Haven't Found Anyone Yet Who Likes To Live Like We Do

She Could Cure You

She was famous when I met her, but that did not matter. She did not know who the celebrities were. She did not care for famous people. Once while traveling in France, her friend Mary Callery wanted to introduce her to Picasso. She said, "But Mary, I don't speak French and he doesn't speak English. What would be the sense in meeting him if we couldn't speak!"

- Jack Cowart

The writings of Georgia O'Keeffe appeal to every good-natured soul looking for somewhere to nest.

My spring has been much better than every travelling springs of the last two years — I have been working — or trying to work my garden into a kind of permanent shape... At the moment I have three rose bushes so full of red and yellow roses that they look on fire — they are really astonishing — You would really laugh to see them — two are very tall — the other smaller — It is a rose that is the reddest red on top and yellow underneath — then sometimes a few spots that are deep butter yellow — and an odd iris — dirty lavender petals reaching up — a pale lavender mixed with yellow that greys it and yellow petals mixed with a little lavender drooping down — very handsome — There are lots of ordinary colors too — many kinds. Well — that’s my life

1955

I do not like the idea of happiness — it is too momentary — I would say that I was always busy and interested in something — interest has more meaning to me than the idea of happiness.

Dear Anita

— aren't you funny to wonder if I like your letters. I was walking up from the little bandbox post office with the mail under my arm — reading your letter this afternoon — and when I came to the part telling what Stieglitz said about "its worth going to hell to get there" — I laughed aloud — and dropped all the things under my arm

I had gone for the mail because I had worked till — what I thought didnt count — so it wasn't any use to keep on — I read your letter twice then went for a walk with about eight of the girls — it was supposed to be a run — and they were all very much astonished that none of them could keep up with me — I can run at a jog trot almost as easily as I can walk — and most girls cant you know.

We explored woods and country and found the quaintest little deserted house imaginable with wonderful big pink and white and yellow roses climbing on it — and funny little garden effects — all surrounded by great tall pines

It would have been too cold to go without a coat if we hadn't run most of the way — whenever they had breath — so you know how great it felt

I came back and read your letter again

Anita — do you know — I believe I would rather have Stieglitz like something - anything I had done — than anyone else I know of — I have always thought that — If I ever make anything that satisfies me even ever so little — I am going to show it to him to find out if its any good — Don't you often wish you could make something he might like?

Still Anita — I dont see why we ever think of what other think of what we do — no matter who they are — isn't it enough just to express yourself — If it were to a particular person as music often is — of course we would like them to understand — at least a little — but why should we care about the rest of the crowd — If I make a picture to you why should I care if anyone else likes it or is interested in it or not — I am getting a lot of fun out of slaving by myself — The disgusting part is that I so often find myself saying — what would you — or Dorothy — or Mr. Martin or Mr. Dow — or Mr. Bement — or somebody — most anybody — say if they saw it — It is curious — how one works for flattery —

Rather it is curious how hard it seems to be for me right now not to cater to someone when I work — rather than just to express myself

During the summer — I didn't work for anyone — I just sort of went mad usually after the winter — but — now — remember Ive only been working a week — I find myself catering to opinion again — and I think I'll just stop it.

Anita — I just want to tell you lots of things — we all stood and listened to the wind way up in the tops of the pines this afternoon — and I wished you could hear it — I just imagined how your eyes would shine and how you would love it — I haven't found anyone yet who likes to live like we do —

October 11th 1915

Dear Anita

Did you ever have something to say and feel as if the whole side of the wall wouldn't be big enough to say it on and then sit down on the floor and try to get it on to a sheet of charcoal paper — and when you had put it down look at it and try to put into words what you have been trying to say with just marks — and then — wonder what it all is anyway — Ive been crawling around on the floor till I have cramps in my feet — one creation looks too much like T.C. the other too much like soft soap - Maybe the fault is with what Im trying to say — I don't seem to be able to find words for it —

I always have a hard time finding word for anything —

Anita — I wonder if I am a raving lunatic for trying to make these things — You know — I don't care if I am — but I do wonder sometimes.

I wish I could see you — I cant tell you how much I wish it. Im going to try some more — I turned them to the wall while I wrote this — One I made this afternoon — the other tonight — they always seem different when you have been away a little while. I hope you love me a little tonight — I seem to want everybody in the world to — Anita.

I put this in an envelope — stretched and laughed.

Its so funny that I should write you because I want to. I wonder if many people do.... You see — I would go in and talk to you if I could — but I hate to be completely outdone by a little thing like distance.

appended to a letter to Alfred Stieglitz

February 1st 1916

Last night I couldn't sleep till after four in the morning — I had been out to the canyon all afternoon — till late at night — wonderful color — I wish I could tell you how big — and with the night the colors deeper and darker — cattle on the pasture in the bottom looked like little pin heads — I can understand Pa Dow painting his pretty colored canyons — it must have been a great temptation — no wonder he fell

Then the moon rose right up out of the ground after we got on the plains again — battered a little where he bumped his head but enormous — There was no mind — it was just big and still — long legged jack rabbits hopping across in front of the light as we passed — A great place to see the nighttime because there is nothing else

Then I came home — not sleepy so I made a pattern of some flowers I had picked — They were like water lilies — white ones — with the quality of smoothness gone

We had a great time riding toward the sunset. He was little and dried up and weather beaten — but he likes living —

A flower is relatively small. Everyone has many associations with a flower — the idea of flowers. You put out your hand to touch the flower — lean forward to smell it — maybe touch it with your lips almost without thinking – or give it to someone to please them. Still — in a way — nobody sees a flower — really — it is so small — we haven’t time — and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time... 'So I said to myself — I'll paint what I see — what the flower is to me but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it — I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers: ‘Well — I made you take time to look at what I saw and when you took time to really notice my flower, you hung all your own associations with flowers on my flower and you write about my flower as if I think and see what you think and see of the flower — and I don’t.

I like you much.
I like knowing the feel of your maleness
and your laugh

— Georgia to Jean Toomer

1934

I am learning something myself — I don’t know exactly what it is —
but if I did — if I could put it clearly into form it would cure you

March 1926

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