Saturday, December 2, 2023

the last book I ever read (The Beauty of Living: e. e. cummings in the Great War, excerpt six)

from The Beauty of Living: e. e. cummings in the Great War by J. Alison Rosenblitt:

Brown’s drinking brought him some luck and some mishaps. When he first came round to view his prospective New York lodgings, he was so drunk (“it being about 8:30 P.M.”) that he began to regale the landlady with the full story of his time in France, leading to many exclamations of “O My God” and an offer to lower the rent by a dollar a week. He found less indulgence from Gaston Lachaise, the French sculptor living in New York who was know to Cummings as the stepfather of his friend Edward Nagle and whose modernist style had already served Cummings as inspiration and bridge between New York and the artistic world of Europe. Lachaise was an important man: famous, controversial, and at the heart of several New York artistic circles. One day, he took Brown out for lunch and asked him if he believed in reincarnation. Brown was two bottles of wine in, and averred that after death they would all rot and turn into witch hazel. He had no notion why he specified witch hazel, but he proceeded nonetheless to defend it vociferously. He wrote later to Cummings that he had no idea what Lachaise had said, having been too drunk to maks sense of a word, but he was quite sure that he himself had defended the witch hazel hypothesis with vigor and at length.

After the witch-hazel incident, Lachaise began to avoid him.

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