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
There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turningTV
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 iOS 8 apps and features: eight iPhone settings you need to look at after you install the update
- 2 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 3 'F*ck it, I quit': TV reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 4 Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
- 5 Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
Cilla, episode 2, ITV, review: Sheridan Smith continues to shine as the young singer
Downton Abbey series 5, episode 1, ITV, review: There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning
Foo Fighters: Live 2015 tour dates announced for Sonic Highways
Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned PR disaster
Top Gear to launch in France after Jeremy Clarkson banned from driving on roads
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God