Sunday, January 16, 2011

John Cheever says . . .

a description of his room at Yaddo.

Yaddo [1960]
3 pm

Dear Bill,

Catalogue of room #6. 20 windows. (13 leaded). Pink velvet rug. Much mended but pretty. Overhead one ecclisiastical vigil light, unlighted. On the window-sill two vases marked IHS. On the bookshelf one marble vase of Bacchus with grapes in a bronze stand of goat’s feet with the pine cone as a symbol of immortality. On the next shelf Minerva in marble with a staff, serpent and helmet. Next a photograph of Queen Elizabeth of Rumania. She is in deep mourning and stands in a forest. She has written: “My trees whisper to me all those I have loved.” Next a gilt statue called Le Jour Naissant. Le Jour is a nude male holding a torch and a lyre. Next les Champs Elysees, I think. Anyhow Homer, Sappho, Orpheus, Dante et all. They all wear laurel and seem happy. Next a Sienese panel of the Annunciation. Next a prie Dieu and a vast chair ornamented with the cross. Then one marble putto under a Hudson River landscape of four cows hock-deep in a mountain pool. One upright piano. Some Merry Andrew has completed the iconography by hanging a horseshoe over one of the pink tiffany lamps of which there are 7.

The cast: 1 Hungarian chemist turned novelist. Astrid and Bob Coates. 1 young poet from Cambridge who has the dazed and disheveled look of someone recently fired from a cannon. Ruth X, a novelist who wears black shoes, leotards, a black shirt and a sweater. This is all covered with lint. She keeps her hair behind her ears. Also old Elizabeth Sparhawk-Jones who wears a shakko to dinner and JC who, considering how his heart leaps at the thought of his sons seems unable to convert this energy to the work at hand. This light is much finer than the light in the valley; the blues at this hour an octave deeper.



From The Letters of John Cheever

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