My Faraway One: Selected Letters, Volume One, By Georgia O'Keeffe & Alfred Stieglitz
Thursday 10 November 2011
"Living is such a tangle – I've only started on this – but – I'll stop." So wrote farm-born artist Georgia O'Keeffe in 1916, a few months after she had begun a correspondence with well-heeled, married photographer Alfred Stieglitz. It would continue across thousands of pages during a tumultuous and stimulating relationship which only ended with his death, 30 years later.
Their passion extended to sharing that Byronic penchant for a frequent dash, a paramount punctuation mark redolent of their restless appetite for the terrain around them. Each day brought new discovery. She regaled him with descriptions of Wisconsin, Texas and, above all, the New Mexico known by DH Lawrence. He was as attuned to the vistas that comprise Manhattan, albeit with excursions to his cherished Lake George. It was there, amid late-summer thunder and lightning, that he, 23 years her senior, took the 31-year-old's virginity in 1918.
That event was to be regularly revisited in his letters to her; and her description was as unbuttoned as his. Whatever her floral subjects, she was now no blushing violet. Indeed, the sexual stamen is a familiar feature of her work. Some have almost derided this correspondence as semi-crazed, a torrent. If taken steadily, however, the 800 large pages of My Faraway One (edited by Sarah Greenough, with a second volume to follow) are an absorbing example of the way artistic order emerges from quotidian chaos.
She writes of somebody washing up at a sink, "I always wanted to write monotonous noises like that, and I don't know how to write anything". Yet she had done so in that very paragraph, as she does across this fascinating, highly populated volume. It is full of sound, not least from Stieglitz's attempts to capture the plosives of a kiss to his remarking "– Georgia O'Keeffe – it's like a very beautiful folk melody – the sound. Georgia O'Keeffe." Add her middle name – Totto – and it might have a dash of Schoenberg.
Well produced, and keenly priced, this volume also gains from concise footnotes. As they should, they lie at the bottom of the page rather than forced into that current, misbegotten vogue for fractured narrative that is the "life in letters".
Order for £25.20 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 I was raped by another man. And now the Government wants to take away the one thing that saved my life
- 2 Preston fan who appeared to snatch Jermaine Beckford's shirt from eight-year-old boy identified and says: 'the truth will come out'
- 3 Priest warns pupils the 'Charlie Charlie Challenge' is 'demonic activity'
- 4 Iran launches anti-Isis cartoon competition 'to expose true nature of Islamic State'
- 5 US warned by Chinese media to stop meddling or 'war will be inevitable'
Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
Thrill of the chaste: The truth about Gandhi's sex life
Suicide Squad: leaked footage shows first look at Batmobile chasing Joker through city streets
ASAP Rocky releases star-studded new album 'At. Long. Last. ASAP' a week early
Never Mind the Buzzcocks axed from BBC2 after 18 years
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote