Saturday, July 17, 2021

the last book I ever read (Utopia Parkway: The Life and Work of Joseph Cornell, excerpt six)

from Utopia Parkway: The Life and Work of Joseph Cornell by Deborah Solomon:

On May 9, 1929, after a decade of living in rented houses, the Cornell family bought a house at 37-08 Utopia Parkway, in Flushing, just a few miles from their previous residence. The twenties had been a rosy time for the town. After plans were announced in 1923 to extend the subway line out to Flushing, enabling riders to get to and from Manhattan for a nickel, block after block of single-family homes sprang up on what had been open farmland. By the time the Cornell family moved to Flushing, the subway was a year old and Main Street, where the terminal was located, had shed the quaint wooden storefronts of its past and entered modern times. There was even a brand-new movie palace, Keith’s.

The Cornell’s new house, which cost $14,000 and had been built the previous year – it was Mrs. Cornell who held the deed – could not have been more ordinary. A two-and-a-half-story Dutch colonial whose shingles were painted white, it sat on a quarter-acre and was one in a row of four identical houses set closely together on the block. The fa├žade was split down the middle by a red-brick chimney, making the house look narrower than it was. Out back was Cornell’s “Arcadia,” a tiny scrap of lawn squeezed between the high walls of the house’s detached garage and the garage next door. Mrs. Cornell, who liked to garden, wasted no time in planting a quince tree in the yard; she had bought it, her son always liked to point out, as a sprig at the local Bloomingdale’s “for seventy-nine cents.” In coming years the tree would grow tall and strong, and provide Joseph with a favorite site for reading, daydreaming, and entertaining his man guests.

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