Thursday, February 28, 2019


Pelican, a dance performance by Robert Rauschenberg.

Dear Curious,

Today, I am hoping to send you searching for a small piece of writing, a prose piece that I am mad for: see a smattering of it below.  You won't be able to read it on the big bad internet; I already tried to find it for you.  You will have to visit a bookshop, or library, and even then, you will probably have to special order it.

I got mine from this good place for getting things, in a collection of essays called On Dolls.

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The Marionette Theatre
by Dennis Silk

Part One


"Shutters shut and open.  So do queens."
- Gertrude Stein.

The Japanese writer, Saikaku, has a tricky story about umbrellas.  Twenty of them hung outside the temple at Kwannon.  People borrowed them in bad weather.  In spring, 1649, an unlucky umbrella-borrower had it blown out of his hand by a divine wind.  Travelling further maybe than Saikaku, the umbrella landed in the village of Amazato.  No one there had seen an umbrella.  But from its ribs, numbering forty, and the unusual luminosity of its oil-paper, they knew the sungod had landed at Amazato.  They built a shrine to the umbrella.

Saikaku does not describe the landing of the umbrella.  But it must descend slowly on Amazato from up there, slowly and in considered spirals, as a god should.  After the vigorous theophany of its descent, it lies stranded in the market-square.  Yet everyone understands the umbrella is latent.  A farmer closes his fingers around its handle as around a staff-hook.  They travel gingerly up the limb of this god, they feel a metal obstruction then a yielding.  The umbrella shuts.  Deus absconditus.
But what shuts opens, like fingers.  Open shut.  This farmer becomes the attendant of the opening and shutting god.

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For some footage of Pelican, and two other Rauschenberg performances, go to the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.