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Description: My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz...
~THE PURPOSE OF THIS BOOK is to present a selection of Georgia O’Keeffe’s and Alfred Stieglitz’s letters to each other that is informative and faithful, but also highly readable. I have therefore silently corrected spelling and have not riddled the text with the use of [sic]. Stieglitz rarely misspelled words, but O’Keeffe...
PublisherYale University Press
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Note to the Reader
THE PURPOSE OF THIS BOOK is to present a selection of Georgia O’Keeffe’s and Alfred Stieglitz’s letters to each other that is informative and faithful, but also highly readable. I have therefore silently corrected spelling and have not riddled the text with the use of [sic]. Stieglitz rarely misspelled words, but O’Keeffe often did — “before,” for example, was always “befor,” and “minute” was frequently “minuet”; she and Stieglitz occasionally even made fun of her mangled attempts to guess at spelling.
Drawing on his Germanic heritage, a tendency to animate inanimate objects, and a penchant for dramatization, Stieglitz frequently capitalized the first letter of nouns and concepts — as in Trees, Mountain Tops, Night, Life, Truth, or Spirit. For smoother reading, I have followed this practice only when he was referring to specific places, such as the “Lake” (Lake George) or the “Park” (Central Park); when capitalization conveys both his emphasis and meaning; or when he or O’Keeffe used endearing appellations for each other, such as “Sweetestheart” or “Dearest Boy.”
I have preserved their nontraditional punctuation, as it reveals the spontaneous, free-flowing character of their handwritten letters. Stieglitz’s handwriting is elegant, and the long, graceful dashes that he formed with a thick-tipped fountain pen add a bold, sometimes breathless, and often poetic tone as one idea or image tumbles over another in rapid succession. O’Keeffe’s orthography is equally distinctive (see pp. 61, 67). Particularly in the 1910s, her letters are frequently filled with long, wavy dashes, vertical and diagonal lines, multiple dots, and even curlicues that fracture her ideas into short, often vivid phrases, suggesting both her impressionistic, less analytical, and almost elliptical method of thinking and a wish to literally sketch out her ideas rather than verbally articulate them. I attempted to indicate the unique character of her writings by preserving her short phrases, but for the sake of readability, clarity, and concision, I have translated her idiosyncratic markings into dashes and have frequently condensed separate lines into paragraphs.
In order to allow both O’Keeffe and Stieglitz to tell their own story, I have annotated the text only lightly. In doing so, my intention has been to provide the reader with critical references to personal or historical information that the artists themselves do not present and to let the letters themselves unveil the evolution of their relationship.
Readers will find a biographical dictionary at the end of the volume that briefly identifies people mentioned in the letters. I have not included well-known artists or authors, unless they had a direct connection with O’Keeffe or Stieglitz. Nor have I included individuals whose first or last names are not known, unless they are mentioned several times in the letters. Both writers frequently referred to family and a few close friends, often women and children, by first name only. In these cases, I have given full names in footnotes at first mention. Thereafter names appear as O’Keeffe and Stieglitz wrote them, except when they used initials or other abbreviations; in those instances I have inserted the name. The biographical dictionary is prefaced by a list of individuals often referred to by first name only; they are cross-referenced and identified more fully in the dictionary.
Stieglitz’s letters from 1916 through 1918, and intermittently thereafter, are very long (sometimes up to forty pages) and were usually written throughout the day (early morning, midday, late afternoon, and evening, for example) and over several days. Although O’Keeffe’s letters from this same period are shorter, she too occasionally bundled in one envelope epistles written over several days. By their own admission, they rarely reread their letters, so these “subsections” of each letter often repeat information or ideas mentioned in other sections. Whereas elsewhere I have included the entire letter, in these instances I have selected the most compelling and forcefully articulated subsection and affixed a plus sign (+) next to the date to indicate my omission of additional subsections enclosed in the same envelope. However, each selected letter or subsection is presented uncensored.
In keeping with the fluid, uninhibited nature of their correspondence, O’Keeffe and Stieglitz never revised their letters, and phrases or even individual words are never crossed out. In those rare instances where their meaning is ambiguous, I have inserted clarifying words in brackets.
Before the early 1920s, neither of the authors consistently dated their letters or noted where they were written. When postmarks and internal evidence have been used to establish dates and locations, that information is given in brackets. Numbers, except for streets or when given as time at the beginning of a letter, have for the most part been spelled out, although O’Keeffe and Stieglitz often used Arabic numerals. Abbreviations such as “N.Y.” or “Met” have been spelled out, except for “S.W.,” which was the cool, distant way Stieglitz and Dorothy Norman referred to O’Keeffe in their letters.
Unless otherwise noted, all letters between O’Keeffe and Stieglitz, as well as correspondence between O’Keeffe, Stieglitz, and others, are in the Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. All references to Lynes, followed by a number, refer to Barbara Buhler Lynes, Georgia O’Keeffe: Catalogue Raisonné (New Haven, 1999). All references to Greenough, followed by a number, refer to Sarah Greenough, Alfred Stieglitz: The Key Set (Washington, 2002).
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