Thursday, November 12, 2015

the last book I ever read (Listening to Stone: The Art and Life of Isamu Noguchi by Hayden Herrera, excerpt twelve)

from Listening to Stone: The Art and Life of Isamu Noguchi by Hayden Herrera:

Although Noguchi and Yamaguchi were very much in love, there were problems. The way they lived was Noguchi’s choice: “I was placed in a different world that I did not know at all,” wrote Yamaguchi, “and I tried to absorb everything about it.” Both were fiercely intense and stubborn. And there were cultural disparities. From her point of view, Noguchi was very much an American. “When we lived together there was a distinct difference between East and West, a big culture gap . . . little differences on the surface made a crack in our feelings and that crack grew.” Noguchi did not speak much Japanese and Yamaguchi spoke little English. “It was,” she said, “difficult to give nuances of meaning. Noguchi was very strict with himself, with his friends, and of course with his wife.” Noguchi insisted that they wear kimonos and he forbade Yamaguchi to cut her hair. “When we lived together in Rosanjin’s farmhouse even the shoes that we wore had to be in accord with the tone of the house. The shoes were Zori, sandals made of wood and straw. They were very rough and they didn’t fit my feet. My skin peeled off and I bled when I wore them but he did not allow me to wear any other shoes.” Once when Yamaguchi came home from working in Tokyo wearing a pair of pink plastic sandals, Noguchi flew into a rage. “What is this?” he cried, and, Yamaguchi recalled, “without listening to my explanation, he threw my sandals away in the rice field. Art and life—he did not tolerate anything that did not match with his aesthetic . . . It was hard for me to become a work of Isamu.” Noguchi was always telling the Japanese not to imitate Western culture. And here was his wife wearing plastic sandals—the epitome of tacky American commercialism. According to Yamaguchi’s brother-in-law, Hiroi, the episode of the plastic sandals was the crack that eventually split Noguchi and Yamaguchi apart.

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