Thursday, November 03, 2005
Anyway, I mention all this by way of crowing over a purchase I made on eBay: a short letter from Steinberg to William Shawn. I came across the listing almost by chance, and after a mild-mannered bidding war, got the piece for a song. As you can see here, Steinberg is discussing potential art for a New Yorker article. If I weren't so intimidated by my copy of The Complete New Yorker--so far I'm too overwhelmed even to remove the shrinkwrap--I would do some quick investigation and figure out which article in particular. (Well, there's always tomorrow.) In the meantime, I'm studying the artist's handwriting, the upward slant of the sentences and the distinctive S. I'm also wondering how this letter--uncreased, so I assume it traveled by interoffice mail--escaped the New Yorker archives and slithered into the private sector. Perhaps it was discarded. Or never sent. I don't like to make a fetish out of these things, but I admit I'm delighted to own it.
SPECIAL UPDATE: Sheila Schwartz at the Saul Steinberg Foundation was nice enough to run down the reference in Steinberg's letter. He was referring to John McPhee's profile of a nameless, superlative chef, "Brigade de Cuisine," which ran in the February 19, 1979 issue of The New Yorker. Ye gods, I recall reading the original article in the library at Wesleyan. It was subsequently reprinted in Giving Good Weight.