THE MAN WHO DID THAT POSTER
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THE MAN WHO DID THAT POSTER



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There is no frontier in America. If you want, the nearest thing would be Weehauken. The frontier goes from New York to New Jersey. From the moment it graced the cover of The New Yorker on March 29, 1976, until Saul Steinberg’s death more than two decades later, he was known to most people (as he lamented later in life) as “the man who did that poster.” Nobody knows whether the genesis of the “View of the World from 9th Avenue” came from one of the free-wheeling, far-ranging dialogues of free association that happened every time Saul Steinberg and Harold Rosenberg got together, but it is a possibility, because one of Steinberg’s favorite anecdotes was about how a real-life incident had led him to create the pineapple as one of his most iconic symbols.

A decade before he made the “9th Avenue” drawing, Steinberg told Claire Nivola that “one of the very rare times when a real incident gave [him] the idea” of the symbolic meaning he wanted to convey came whenever he drew a pineapple. It happened in the mid-1950s, during the years of his closest intellectual friendship with Dorothy Norman. Steinberg was visiting her in East Hampton, where, as in her New York town house, she presided over an informal salon of some of the most interesting people in the creative professions. Norman was writing a book titled The Heroic Encounter to accompany a collection of objects and photographs she planned to exhibit at the Willard Gallery in New York. As she described her intentions to Steinberg, he thought the project seemed “hopeless” because the material was so vast, disparate, and personal. The only point on which they agreed was that the history of art was the story of humanity’s ongoing struggle in one “heroic encounter” after another, all of which were portrayed through myth and symbol.

Some months later, on a hot summer afternoon when Steinberg dropped in at the Rosenberg house in Springs, he found Harold sitting at the kitchen table wielding a large kitchen knife and “bothering” a pineapple. “Voila! The Heroic Encounter,” Steinberg said theatrically, as Dorothy Norman’s title popped into his mind. Harold hacked away at a pineapple that stubbornly refused to be cut, and his expression seemed to Steinberg “crocodilian … a sinister smile.” Steinberg didn’t remember who won, but the memory of Rosenberg’s battle always made him think that the top or “feathered” half of the pineapple was “the hero,” whereas the prickly bulb below it was “the dragon” that the hero was compelled to slay.

Steinberg had been playing with representations of the North American continent for well over a decade before the “9th Avenue” poster took its final form. In 1966 he did a series of drawings for a three-part profile of Los Angeles in The New Yorker, some of which featured the West Coast as if the artist were poised high above the Pacific Ocean looking down on the city. In 1973 he switched coasts for “The West Side,” a drawing that placed Manhattan Island at the center of a universe that included a collection of amorphous lumps denoting the five boroughs (Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island), with a vague sixth lump known as Upstate. Beyond the city, a sun peeked over the Atlantic Ocean at the top of the drawing, while the largest lump of all, an upside-down bean-shaped “USA,” filled the bottom. After he made this one, Steinberg started to draw visions of a city that might have been New York and might have had a river beyond it, but without any of his iconic images: no Chrysler or Empire State Building, no Statue of Liberty, and no other recognizable landmarks. There was only a power station, which may or may not have been the one on East 14th Street, but the buildings along the horizon looked as if they would be more at home on Red Square in Moscow than along the Hudson River.

There were other versions of cityscapes, and in one of them Steinberg added words, marking off 9th and 10th Avenues, the Hudson River, and a vague “America,” but it was still very much like his earliest drawings, with nothing except the street names to make the viewer aware of a specific place. In another version, “Jersey” showed up beyond the Hudson River, and the landscape included Texas, Nevada, and Canada. All these were drawn on 8½-by-11-inch paper, but he expanded the next version to 20 by 15 inches, then to 26 by 19½ inches, and finally to the largest, 28 by 19 inches. The streetscape eventually included the ordinary squat redbrick apartment buildings and warehouses that dot the midtown West Side of New York, to which he added some generic-shaped cars and many scritch-scratches of rubber-stamp people who scurry along the sidewalks.

When viewers first saw the magazine cover, the usual response was almost always a smile of recognition swiftly followed with a nod of superiority over the parochialism of supposedly sophisticated New Yorkers, who allegedly believe the world ends once they cross the Hudson River. Nobody, it seemed, stopped to consider that Steinberg was showing how the New Yorkers’ parochialism was no different from every other American’s, the only difference being that New Yorkers seldom ventured outside the small neighborhood villages into which the great city is divided. Steinberg’s ordinary “crummy” New Yorkers are rendered as impersonal rubber stamps who live in the “crummy” parts of town seldom seen by tourists, and who are too busy just making it through another day to have time to think about the larger world beyond the appointed rounds of where they live and work.



After the magazine’s legendary reader, “the little old lady in Dubuque,” enjoyed her moment of condescension with the cover, she and the rest of Steinberg’s viewers wanted to know why none of his typical landmarks were included to identify the grandeur for which the city is famous. He had a ready answer: this was a drawing of how “the crummy people”—that is, the working classes—see the world that lies beyond their immediate neighborhood. He never intended to make people feel superior or even comfortable when they looked at this drawing, for his thoughts about America, particularly New York and its environs, had darkened considerably during the past decade. Like most of the rest of the country, he had been “glued to the television” and was in “paralysis” over the Watergate affair. During the worst of the Vietnam War, he thought it was probably for the best that the average American was confronted by its brutality in every newspaper headline or television broadcast. In a paraphrase of Gertrude Stein’s famous remark about Oakland, California, “There’s no there there,” Steinberg enlarged the phrase to include the entire continent: “Today you get from here, where you board the plane, to there, where you get off. There’s nothing in between, not like it used to be.”

And just as the country was facing one crisis after another, so too was he. There were too many “boring parties and primitive conversations, nagging, bragging, the usual kindergarten.” He fled from the city at every opportunity because he thought it had been ruined by an influx of poor people, while paradoxically, East Hampton, where he went for solace and tranquillity, was “ruined by invasion of the rich.” The country was roiled by gasoline shortages, falling house prices, and rising unemployment, and he could see all this clearly in eastern Long Island, where there were no cars in the supermarket parking lot, many stores had to close, and “everyone has left, due to poverty.”

By the time the “View of the World from 9th Avenue” appeared, it was not meant to be the cheerful, optimistic poster people took it for, and the public misreading of Steinberg’s intention only deepened his chronically gloomy outlook. When the demand for copies of the cover became more than the magazine could handle, a contract to reproduce a poster was quickly drawn up, and by 1980 25,000 copies had already been sold. As years passed, it became a kind of public shorthand for New York in the American imagination: in 1992, at Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court, the president of the New York State Bar Association used Steinberg’s iconic poster as an example of how Justice Ginsburg’s vision would be far vaster than “how the world revolved around 7th [sic] Avenue.” Chambers of commerce all over the world literally stole the idea as they adapted the poster to promote their cities and organizations, while individuals as well as publications created other kinds of rip-offs.

Steinberg amassed a file of imitations a good five or six inches thick, as people from all over the world sent him various versions, and it made him fume repeatedly about everything from plagiarism to copyright infringement. Time and again Alexander Lindey had to restrain him from suing over everything from T‑shirts to coffee mugs that bore an adaptation of the poster. Steinberg complained that he hated to walk down Fifth Avenue between 42nd and 59th Streets, for the windows of every souvenir shop he passed had some rip-off relating to the cover that made him wince. There were heated exchanges between the angry and outraged Steinberg and the obviously irritated Alexander Lindey, whose patience wore exceedingly thin as he told his client repeatedly that he had no grounds to sue. Steinberg insisted that he did, and just when the situation threatened to explode, he usually backed off and sent Lindey another of his many euphemistic apologies for his “Mittel Europa attitudes.”

The fuss over the cover showed no sign of abating, and Steinberg festered for the next seven years, until 1984, when he finally had legitimate grounds to sue for copyright infringement. He sprang to the ready when Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., appropriated specific images of some of the buildings from his poster for one they created to promote the movie Moscow on the Hudson. It took four years for Steinberg to win his case, and by that time Alexander Lindey had retired. After Steinberg paid his new lawyers at Rembar & Curtis, his share of the settlement was an impressive $225,859.49.

Despite the fact that the decade from the time the drawing appeared on the New Yorker cover until the lawsuit was settled was so full of personal trauma and an overload of professional work, Steinberg was possessed with an energy fueled by anger, and he stayed focused on righting alleged wrongs connected to the poster. Other people were making a great deal of money using his creation, and it was natural for him to want retribution. He remained fixated on justice until he got it, for as with so many other aspects of his character, looking back and focusing on the past was what he did best.

MEANWHILE, HIS IMMEDIATE PROBLEM WAS THE Whitney retrospective, and there were many facets with which only he could deal. Once he made the commitment to the “nightmare” (as he called the exhibition), Steinberg took the entire process very seriously: “I accepted, I have to do it and will get to work so as to do it well.” A major undertaking was the chronology, and only he could prepare it. He had been out of touch with his Denver and New York cousins for a very long time, especially the Danson family, who had done so much to bring him to the United States. To ensure that his memories were factually correct, he contacted Henrietta Danson to ask for any help she could give, particularly with family photographs. She was a great help, as she had saved everything pertaining to his coming to America, starting with correspondence dating from the time he was desperate to leave Italy, and she sent it all to him. She called the letters “a treasure trove” as she again read about all the false starts and confusions connected with securing his visa. She noted how his writing showed the development of his ability to express himself in English in the chatty letters he wrote about the trials of life in Santo Domingo. She also had his wartime letters, full of blacked-out material, and even the “secret note” he had tried to send to his parents, which obviously never made it through censorship. From the vantage point of what his life had become since the war ended, she told him, “It all reads like a novel…It seems hard to believe any of it.”

STEINBERG URGED ALDO BUZZI—or perhaps begged is more accurate—to come to Springs in September 1977 and help him prepare for the retrospective. He was so eager for Aldo to come that he tried to entice him with the news of his first flying lesson, during which the pilot was so pleased with Steinberg’s progress that he let him take over the controls. He promised to take Aldo on a flight, but that news did not thrill him. He came to Springs but managed not to get into an airplane at all, let alone one piloted by Steinberg, who soon tired of lessons and gave them up.

To help both himself and Aldo, Steinberg made an outline of the work he had to do for the retrospective. The first task was to select the pictures: at first the museum wanted approximately 150, but by the time everyone had considered all the phases of his career, they agreed that they needed almost 250 to encompass its full range. Steinberg knew that was too many but resigned himself to making the selection. Harold Rosenberg was engaged to write the text and edit the catalogue, and with his usual exuberance, he was full of ideas for what was becoming a very large and expensive book. Steinberg called it “the Art Book I’ve feared and avoided, and which makes my hand tremble.” When he agreed to the retrospective, he had hoped for “a show and a simple catalogue,” but it was fast becoming the very thing he had tried for years to avoid: “a heavy, expensive vulgar book, which is the stuff on which museums feed.” Part of his animus came from the fact that although he would get a small royalty on every copy sold, the book was a catalogue and the property of the museum, which would glean the real profit.

To get through the preparations for both the book and the exhibition, he was determined to do two things: to “defend” himself and to make the best of the situation. He and Aldo conducted mock interviews based on the questions that interviewers were bound to ask. It paid off, and he thanked Aldo when they quoted him “with precision.” He prepared for the ordeal of the opening and its hoopla by working on his physical stamina, riding his bike most days around the country roads leading to Louse Point and watching his diet by eliminating whiskey, bread, and desserts. He slimmed down to the same weight he had carried in 1955, a fact that he knew because he checked the scale against his driver’s license from that year, one of the documents he had unearthed while trolling through his past life.

To prepare the chronology of his life and work, “a guy from the museum, slow and patient,” was assigned to help him. The compilation was frustratingly slow, and as he needed someone whose memories overlapped his own, he naturally turned to Aldo. There were also the bibliography and the list of titles, both for works that already had names and for those that did not, which had to be assigned titles. Also, although the museum staff was in charge of contacting collectors who owned paintings the curators wanted to exhibit, they occasionally had to enlist Steinberg to help with a few of the recalcitrant, the reluctant, and in several rare instances the uncooperative. It was exactly the kind of human interaction he detested, but he did it. Everything had to be finished by November to be ready for the April 1978 opening. When time seemed against him in mid-August, Steinberg decided that if it turned out well, it would be by a miracle.

He hovered over the museum’s staff as they did the work of assembling the paintings and drawings from which he made the final selection, but he needed help to assemble the non-art material. Sheila Schwartz, an art historian and editor who had been working with Leo Steinberg, agreed to help him one day each week whenever he was in the city. One of her earliest duties was to buy a typewriter on which to record his remarks for the chronology and, as he asked her to do, to correct him if he made mistakes in English. When she did, Steinberg would listen intently, then say, “No, that doesn’t sound like me,” and as Schwartz remembered, “back we’d go to his original wording.”

Working with Schwartz required Steinberg to go through his voluminous files of letters and papers. His file cabinets contained “fat, messy, amorphous folders,” and he explained how he wanted her to put them into an order that would permit him to lay hands on exactly what he needed. Schwartz began by breaking down the contents of the first several files and creating many new folders with precise identifications. Steinberg took one look at it and said, “No, I can’t work this way,” and put everything back into the original messy files. She thought he was bothered by what was “(to him) excessive categorization and definitiveness; his intellect and imagination wanted things in a constant state of flux.”

Everyone who read the chronology agreed that it complemented Rosenberg’s text and vice versa; as the book dealer John L. Hochmann, put it, “Most chronologies read like tombstones, but this one reads like a narrative.” Work on the retrospective continued as 1977 ended, with Steinberg giving interviews nonstop and being photographed for the many feature articles generated by the Whitney’s publicity department. He still had to complete the poster, give final approval for the printed invitations, and, most important of all, prepare the guest list, a task he compared to the logistics for the Battle of Austerlitz.

IT WAS TOO COLD AND THERE was too much snow that December to go to the country, so Steinberg stayed in New York and went to dinner parties every night in a constant round of “new people and pretty women.” He was able to hold court and pontificate with pleasure because Sigrid was “traveling,” and since he was not involved with other women at the time, “words and ideas [came] more freely.” As had happened in the past when he had allowed himself to be wined and dined exclusively by the cream of New York society and the celebrities whose boldfaced names dotted the tabloid gossip columns, he earned the enmity of old friends. One among the several was Sasha Schneider, who asked Steinberg to create a poster for a concert he planned to give to celebrate his seventieth birthday in October 1978. Steinberg knew that he had too many other commitments, and when the deadline arrived, he had not been able even to begin it. When Schneider phoned to ask about his progress, Steinberg became nasty and defensive and Schneider withdrew the request, saying that it was more important to keep the friendship that had begun almost four decades earlier than to fight over a poster. But he accused Steinberg of having time to hobnob only with the rich and famous and claimed that, as one of Steinberg’s oldest friends, he had “the right” to remind him that his own seventieth birthday was fast approaching, and when it arrived, he might need the old friends who truly cared for him. Steinberg did not reply, but he hurriedly made the poster.

This was the social climate in which Steinberg prepared his guest list for the opening night dinner on April 13, 1978, for friends of the museum, lenders, and his personal guests. Not only did he have to hobnob with the international glitterati at the dinner, but he also had to see them at other times, and he anticipated having a few frantic weeks after the opening. After all the help Aldo had given him, Steinberg asked him not to come because he would be too nervous to enjoy his company or give his old friend the attention he thought he deserved. However, he put Hedda at the top of his list of invitees. Despite her protests that she should not attend the dinner but should leave the evening free to be Sigrid’s, he insisted that she had to be there.

He and Sigrid were in a period of cooled passion and a pattern of cordiality when she was in New York, which was not often because she spent so much time in Mali. She was especially dreading the opening, and to get away from it she had gone to Mali, where she had a long-established network of native friends and was having an affair with one of a series of African lovers. Steinberg insisted that she had to be present for the opening dinner and she came back reluctantly, which was enough to make them both tense.

On the night of the opening, photographers lined the sidewalks as everyone from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to Andy Warhol to Woody Allen mounted the steps into the museum. What a “classic way to show muscle,” Steinberg gloated. The New York Times critic Enid Nemy could not resist a tongue-in-cheek appraisal of the crowd by quoting Leo Lerman’s partner, Gray Foy, who gushed about how much he adored Hedda Sterne before he got in a zinger about how she and Steinberg had “separated (but did not divorce) almost two decades ago, but artists never did care about time.” And, as Hedda had feared there would be, there was an incident at the dinner involving her and Sigrid.

Steinberg was seated at the head table with Mrs. Onassis on his right and the museum director, Tom Armstrong, on her right, the rest of the table being filled with various luminaries and dignitaries. Sigrid and Hedda were each placed prominently at other, separate tables. As the dinner was winding down and guests were getting up to mingle and chat, Dore Ashton sat down next to Steinberg to offer praise for the exhibition. She was a genuine friend to Steinberg and to the two women, so she made a remark in total innocence about how wonderful it was that his “ex-wife” (Hedda) could be on such good terms with his “new one” (Sigrid). Steinberg erupted; he slammed his hand down on the table and set the cutlery bouncing as he said, “Hedda is my WIFE! She is, was, and always will be!” Unfortunately, Sigrid was standing directly behind him and heard everything. So too did several others, who hurried to tell Hedda what had just happened. Hedda left quietly and quickly; Sigrid stayed on, awkward and insecure, and she never forgave him. Her embarrassment was magnified when People magazine interviewed Steinberg and chose to highlight his relationship with the two women in its coverage of the exhibition. In a diary entry from 1985, Sigrid wrote a list of reasons that she hated him; most of all she hated him for his “last exhibition, 1978,” and “your interview … and what it did for me.”

AS FOR THE EXHIBITION ITSELF, there was mostly critical praise, with a few of the usual questions and quibbles about Steinberg’s place in the world of art. Publishers Weekly led off with a review of the catalogue, and after calling it “a dazzling gallery [of his] mad, sardonic, and hilarious” work, it referred to him as a “cartoonist” and offered a “resounding ‘yes!’ ” to the skeptics who asked, “But is Steinberg an artist?” The architecture critic Paul Goldberger sidestepped the question, calling the retrospective “one of the best pieces of architectural criticism in years,” while reporter Kim Levin paraphrased Anaïs Nin by calling Steinberg “A Spy in the House of Art.” Clearly the critics did not know what to do with such a vast collection of disparate creativity. The International Herald-Tribune paid more attention to the “media blitz” surrounding Steinberg than to the show itself, as it seemed more content to list feature articles—in the New York Times Magazine and Newsweek—and the cover features in Horizon and Time, among others, than to appraise the art directly. The writers said that Steinberg’s “canonization” had come “after many years when museums shied away from his work,” and they wondered why there was this sudden barrage of attention and whether it could be attributed to his “true weight as an artist.” They concluded that “long-range assessment must remain an open question.”

Anatole Broyard wrote an article that began by saying he was eager to read the show’s catalogue/ book because he felt he was missing something when others praised drawings that he often did not understand. He may have been reacting to the glitter of the opening when he objected to the “chic and automatic assent that surrounds Steinberg’s work,” and concluded that many of the drawings looked like cartoons and “perhaps they ought to be looked at as if they were.” Like many readers of the book, Broyard found Rosenberg’s text “almost as baffling as the drawings” and “the sort of esthetic blather that Rosenberg usually satirizes.” Broyard quoted Steinberg as having said that his drawings “appeal to the complicity of my reader,” and his dismissive response was that “too many artists are appealing to my complicity right now.”

Broyard’s article unsettled Steinberg, but it did not carry the critical weight of the review by the Times’s John Russell, which was a devastating blow with a punch that continued to wound for many years afterward. In his very first sentence, Russell said that by Steinberg’s own admission, he had known “nothing but admiration, affection, and cash on the nail.” To Russell, Steinberg was the quintessential example of the art world’s “insider’s insider”: he was shown in the best galleries throughout the world, no one ever gave him a bad review, museums begged and pleaded to mount shows, and he managed to create the best of all possible worlds, for he “didn’t even have to part with his work; he just sold the reproduction rights.” On the one hand, Russell thought the Whitney retrospective was a possible mistake that could well send Steinberg scrambling back “onto the treadmill of commercial art.” On the other hand, he thought Steinberg had figured out how to beat the system in order to live as he liked and at the same time keep his integrity intact: “He’s still doing it and good luck to him.”

Russell did end his review on several positive notes, but as readers seldom read reviews in their entirety, very few remembered some of the compliments, such as his comparison of Steinberg’s portrayal of New York to the way several distinguished writers portrayed their cities: Italo Svevo’s Trieste, Constantine Cafavy’s Alexandria, and also Vladimir Nabokov’s America, when he wrote about the country in Lolita. Russell praised Steinberg’s talent for parody and epigram and urged his readers to see the show “many times over.” He said that they would learn something and be amused, and they would even profit from Harold Rosenberg’s text.

Never mind that the show and the catalogue were both sell-outs; never mind that the international press notices were abundantly positive; and never mind that John Russell compared Steinberg to distinguished writers (as Steinberg himself liked to do). The opening portion of his review was, as Leo Steinberg told Saul, “intentionally malicious” and “so wildly unrealistic that only its own stultified malice comes through.” Saul Steinberg was unable to put it behind him. What rankled most was the insinuation that he was only in the business of art to make money, and it festered like a recurring boil for years.

AFTER ALMOST TWO YEARS OF NONSTOP activity connected to showcasing his work, it was only natural that Steinberg felt a bit of a letdown once the exhibition was safely launched. But there were other reasons for sadness as well. Richard Lindner, one of his oldest friends in New York, died peacefully in his sleep on January 13, 1978. They had been neighbors during the years Steinberg lived with Hedda, and the friendship grew close again when Steinberg moved to 75th Street. The funeral was a dismal affair, and he was among the few friends who took Lindner to “a sad cemetery in the suburbs.” He went home knowing that every time he thought of his friend he would feel “a wave of affection and tenderness.”

Steinberg was too busy to brood in the early months after Lindner’s death, but once the retrospective was ending, the sensation of “loss and emotion” hit so strongly that it surprised him. It became overwhelming when Harold Rosenberg died suddenly on July 11, of a stroke after complications from pneumonia. Ironically, John Russell wrote Rosenberg’s obituary for the New York Times, noting that his last book had been about Steinberg. Hilton Kramer posited in a separate article that when Thomas Hess died two days after Rosenberg on July 13, “An Era in Art Comes to an End.” Indeed, for Steinberg it had, beginning with Ad Reinhardt’s death in 1967 and encompassing Vladimir Nabokov’s a decade later; he mourned Nabokov vividly for several years afterward.

It took him until the following April, in 1979, after May Rosenberg had arranged two memorial services, for him to process the loss of Harold. Steinberg spoke at both services, in New York and later in Chicago, where Harold had been on the faculty of the university’s Committee on Social Thought. He worked diligently on the speech he delivered at both memorial services, editing repeated versions until he was satisfied, but the one paragraph he kept in every version was the one he chose for his ending: “In my mind, the conversation with Harold will continue the rest of my life with the same polite tenderness that marked our friendship.” When he set up the meditation room in the 75th Street apartment where he practiced “sitting” as part of his yoga regimen, he hung a photo of Harold, in a coat and swinging a cane, directly in his line of vision. The photo was there until he died.

STEINBERG RETREATED TO SPRINGS, where he rented a house for the summer of 1978 while contractors installed French doors and more large windows in the studio. He did not want to be alone, especially in a rented house, and he begged his nearest and dearest to visit, starting with Aldo, whom he invited to stay for a month or longer. Lica’s son, Stéphane, and his wife, Danielle, were living and working in Africa. Steinberg offered to pay for everything if they would only come visit, but they were unable to do so. He also invited Daniela Roman, but at a different time from her brother because he thought they reverted to their childhood relationship when they were together for too long. He liked it at first, but as he was not used to being around children and did not appreciate how they re-created their earlier rapport, it quickly wore on him. He wanted Aldo’s company most of all, and he sent a sizable check to make up for income Aldo would lose from not working and to pay for his travel expenses. He sent more than enough and told Aldo to give at least $1,000 of it to Ada, who was the only close friend he did not invite to Springs. Although she had made several trips to the United States in recent years, Steinberg always managed to be in Europe when she passed through New York, and he preferred to keep her safely sequestered in Italy.

While he was waiting for Aldo’s arrival, the only activity that brought him pleasure was working on drawings for The New Yorker. Lee Lorenz and William Shawn were greatly relieved to see so much productivity, for they had feared that the retrospective might have created the equivalent of a writer’s block that would greatly hamper his output. Instead he created a series of portfolios, two- to four-page spreads of everything from his own dreams to interpretations of classic Japanese art and American public architecture, to whimsical maps of his own creation. While he was involved in all this, he followed his usual custom of making notes to himself in his pocket diaries or some of the datebooks he kept sporadically. In 1978, one of the questions he pondered was the “influence of subway on Dubuffet. He thought of making drawings of Rimbaud and Verlaine that would show “how the true influence is hidden.” He quoted Harold Rosenberg on Céline: “An evil man cannot be a good writer.” Perhaps considering subjects for future New Yorker spreads, he wrote “Summer—baseball, winter—football.” And perhaps when he wrote “Ideal vs. Survival” he was writing about himself and what he was going to do with the rest of his life, now that he had known so much professional closure and personal loss. Like Steinberg’s Don Quixote, who jousted at pineapples from his rickety horse or thrust his spear at the world from a quasi-safe perch within the open mouth of a crocodile, the two concepts would figure repeatedly in Steinberg’s ever-elusive quest for, if not happiness, then certainly satisfaction.

CHAPTER 38



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