Wayne Koestenbaum: The Desire to Write (II)

August 29, 2011  |  By
Filed under: Essay

Pablo Picasso, _La Rue-des-Bois_, 1908

The Desire to Write about La Rue-des-Bois

If I wanted to insert narrative into a description of Picasso’s La Rue-des-Bois, 1908, purchased by Gertrude and Leo Stein, I’d need to anthropomorphize. The trees are easy to anthropomorphize; they come in pairs — two sets of bony twins, tall as Franz Liszt or Abe Lincoln, but without virtuosity or eloquence, and substituting for flashiness a puritanical leaflessness. The leaves, when they finally arrive, are few but chunky, almost qualifying as bushes, lampshades, or balloons. My heart, however, is not in the leaves; my heart is in the green, its monochromatic domination of the field. The green’s decision to wipe out dissent (to silence the rebuttals of red or blue) reminds me of any decision to stick to one color, one action, one book, one body, one house, one desire; any monotheistic fidelity puts to rest the brain’s traffic and simplifies the horizon, even if such radical simplicity (I choose green, and only green), like all abstentions, takes discipline. Two nights ago I dreamt that a literary critic I no longer love was flossing his teeth in my bathroom; this critic (I’ll call him Leo Stein), naked from the waist down, was semi-erect, not because flossing was an aphrodisiac, but because he didn’t belong in my bathroom, and intruding on a former rival’s property can be a turn-on. If I were to declare an erotic allegiance to any element in Picasso’s La Rue-des-Bois, I’d choose the green horizon-curve that cuts, like a sickle or a bent bow, across two thin trees; this curve ignores the two trees it cuts, but also nonviolently includes them in its sinuous embrace. If there weren’t curves in this proudly vertical painting, with its upright trees, I’d feel abandoned; curves offer me a surge of liberty. In my dream, Leo Stein’s penis curved — perhaps because he was only half-hard. His penis, unable to make up its mind, chose to curve instead of aiming its missive at a single addressee. And his undershirt, in the dream, billowed outward, like a maternity shift.

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  1. Hilary Harkness Says:

    Hello, does anyone know the dimensions of this painting? Thanks

  2. Natasha Says:

    Where is the original painting located? Because my parents have this painting in their house.

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