Jean Genet (1910-1986) is buried in Morocco. As much as I'd like to visit his grave it isn't likely that I'll ever get there. Meanwhile I've placed my favorite picture of him atop an installation (I like to be pretentious in my terms) in a corner of my bedroom. I often read a few paragraphs in any of his novels, my favorite being Miracle of the Rose. No one, I'm certain, has ever come close to writing like Genet; no one could skim as brilliantly as his pen did along the fine border where surrealism meets reality. He is like the most-skilled-by-far tight-rope walker; he'll go for hundreds and hundreds of pages. And he'll never stumble. And he'll never fall.
Details of the installation: At bottom, a set of two drawers I bought at a yard sale in Essex Junction, Vermont. On it in the foreground are a couple of small attractive stones I intend to take with me the next time I visit a grave so I can, as the Jewish people do, leave a token of my visit. To the left of those stones, indistinguishable in the picture, is a beautiful piece of tree-branch -- it looks as if carved by an artist -- which I found on a hike up in Truro.
Above it is a wooden box; I think Mark's father gave it to me; in red and black ink it advertises, on two sides:
Parboiled and Steam Roasted
Libby, McNeill & Libby, USA
Product of Uruguay
Within this box I have the Modern Library six-volume edition of Proust's In Search of Lost Time -- certainly the handiest version, and probably the best translation -- as well as a manuscript book sent to me by a man in Japan after I'd sold him a rare book about rock and roll that he wanted badly. Atop the beef box is a manicure scissors, always easy for me to find.
Then, moving the eye upward, comes a little chest of drawers that Mark gave me for Christmas or a birthday a long time ago. I love it. I like to keep things very organized. I would not like it if a rubber band was in the paper clip drawer or vice versa.
Atop it, on the right, are two jewelry boxes. Do they even make such things anymore, especially those designed for men? The bottom one was given to me by my fellow employees at Western Union in Lansing, Michigan, in maybe 1967 when I moved on to another job. The initials GF are stamped in gold on the top in a font I never liked. Kind of tacky. The box above it, which is exquisite, was given to me by my friend Dennis in 1965 or 1966 for Christmas. Though made in Germany, it was noted that the leather for the top and the band on the front came from Spain. One or the other of us took to calling this my Spanish box of Spanish leather, after the Dylan song "Spanish Boots of Spanish Leather" -- and of course we thought we were just too cool beyond cool to associate anything with words written by the lyric-god himself; it wouldn't have been possible to quote Dylan too often.
The slip-cased Dutton paperbacks on the left are Lawrence Durrell's Justine, Mountolive, Balthazar, and Clea -- collectively called The Alexandria Quartet. They were one of the free offerings I got for joining a book club in the early sixties. As much as I've loved this little boxed set I never got around to actually reading the novels until June of 1998. Well worth the wait!
Here -- you can see in more detail:
Drew sent me the Richard Avedon picture of Genet below on a postcard on Dec. 21, 1979; considering Genet's penchant for both petty thievery and grand larceny, Drew could not have chosen a more perfect vehicle to send me the "Police Log" item he'd glued to the other side of the card:
Below, two of the culprits, Andrew and Patricia, in a booth photo. Color added by Drew. Drew is amazing. He can make a cheap photo better. He can make an entire day better. He can make your mood better. He can make your life better. He can make everything better.