Snapshotism

Mary Ann Caws

  • I Am a Beautiful Monster by Francis Picabia, translated by Marc Lowenthal
    MIT, 478 pp, £22.95, October 2007, ISBN 978 0 262 16243 2
  • The Artwork Caught by the Tail: Francis Picabia and Dada in Paris by George Baker
    MIT, 476 pp, £24.95, October 2007, ISBN 978 0 262 02618 5

Picabia’s book of writings and drawings, I Am a Beautiful Monster, is wrapped in a brown-bag cover of monsterdom, while George Baker’s book about Picabia, The Artwork Caught by the Tail, is presented in a costume of gleaming gold: so we have the modest-appearing original, with its provocative title, and the shiny interpretation of that writing and drawing. In Marc Lowenthal’s masterful translations and commentary, the footnotes are wildly informative and the plays of typography delightfully rampant. Examples of the aphorisms: ‘The brothel is the place where one feels most at home’ or ‘Life has only one form: forgetting’ or ‘To those talking behind my back: my ass is looking at you.’ The drawings seem an essential part of the publication, although it turns out that Picabia himself published his drawings and his poems separately. Too bad: as Lowenthal points out, they lead to the concrete poetry soon to be seen on the horizon.

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