Dime-Store Alchemy
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Dime-Store Alchemy

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  332 ratings  ·  42 reviews
The task Charles Simic undertakes in this diverse, essentially unclassifiable book is one of illumination and tribute. Rather than constrict his response to Joseph Cornell's surreal art to the objective terms of critical analysis, Simic sets out to recreate in a different medium - the written language of the poet - the experience of viewing Cornell's enigmatic construction...more
Published 1992 by Penguin Books Canada Ltd., Ontario
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Apr 25, 2008 Monica rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Monica by: Ruth
Shelves: poetry, art, special-books
OK. Now that I've read Dime-Store Alchemy, I'll write something.

The goodreads forum has helped me reconnect with my literary life. I've sorted through half my library and collected several dozen to donate (not enough!), but all the inspiration around here made me succumb to a latent book-buying "sickness" and I placed a few on-line orders. "Asylum Dance" had been an elusive find, so when it turned up, I placed an order and added a few more titles to get "free" shipping. When the package arrive...more
This little book is a treasure. Being a poetry ignoramus, I had no idea how prolific and inventive a writer Charles Simic is. I read this after I had finished Utopia Parkway, a biography of Joseph Cornell. It is a beautiful coda to that book, adding breadth and a poetic appreciation, not only to Cornell's life and work, but to art's place in life.
Jan 31, 2013 Audrey rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
I always want to like Simic more than I do.
Erin Malone
Simic + Cornell = What's Not to Love??

Simic, a poet, wrote this thoughtful appreciation of Cornell’s life work in 1992, some twenty years after Cornell passed away in a house in Bayside, Queens, that the artist had longed lived in on Utopia Parkway with his mother and brother. Cornell built boxes that contained found objects arranged for display within the boxes. Ignorant of Cornell’s life, work and residence, I ran by his house pretty regularly in the last two years of his life, the late teens of mine, heading up Utopia toward the...more
Barry Hammond
The art of Joseph Cornell is some of the most beautiful and mysterious in American history. Classified as a surrealist, Cornell is also a fetishist, icon-maker, an illusionist, and a magician. His boxes seem to have one foot in the realm of pawn-shops, junk dealers, dollar stores, old bookshops and the other foot in the supernatural realms of dreams. Charles Simic's poetry captures both the effect and some of the meaning that Cornell has on the viewer, both re-interpreting the artist and providi...more
Laurie Niestrath
Simic's work is best appreciated along side a viewing of Cornell's work. The two are perfect companions. Without the visual representations, much needs to be "read into" this short collection. The opportunity to view his collages of film and assemblages are well worth the time to see his work on display at The Fralin Museum of Art, University of Virginia.
Agustín Fest
Como encontrar la otra cara de tantas cosas: el juguete (el juego), el azar, el insomnio, la belleza de lo mundano e insignificante, la niñez perdida en el laberinto (la ciudad, el propio). Hermoso libro. Provoca una inquietud indefinida para quien decida ser cómplice de los dos artistas.
Nicholas During
In all ways a beautiful little book. Speculative, no doubt, but who better to do speculative that Charles Simic? And he was clearly inspired by his choice of topic. I think I'll never look at a Cornell piece again without thinking more deeply about it after reading this book. Perhaps even other art works as well. And that, I assume, is what Simic is after here. Both an homage to an artist he admires, and an example of a different art criticism. Not so much interested in the universal ways to exp...more
Simic writes so well, that I have a new found interest of Cornell. All writers are influenced by the world, but Simic has picked one subject that had influence over his ideas of creativity and concentrated the energy brought on by Cornell's work- studying the influence to breed a brand new body of work. Part historical study, part dual biography and part poetry, this book encapsulates the theory of duet performance and conversation that comes when one artist decides to have a collaboration with...more
This book is one of my favorite favorite things in the world. I love it so very much.
Matthew Thompson
Recently revived by the New York Review of Books, Dime-Store Alchemy pairs two kindred spirits, MacArthur grant winning poet Charles Simic and influential outsider artist Joseph Cornell, in a sublime work of miniaturized magic. Bypassing cumbersome analysis, Simic shoots instead for a kind of literary parallel to Cornell’s own enigmatic artistic methods: assembling seemingly disparate images and impressions, plucked quotations and fragments of biography, into elegant pawnshop puzzles just beggin...more
Charles Simic can do no wrong for me personally but my enjoyment of this book was exceptional since I was expecting to only be able to find dry biographies on Joseph Cornell--it turns out there's a slight, readable series of meditations by one of my very favorite authors. Beautiful. Beautiful. Jonathan Safran-Foer did something vaguely similar as well. What was that called? A Convergence of Birds. Yeah. That was really good too, but that was a compilation of lots of authors.
Thomas Davis
I just loaned this to a friend. It reminded me how little I like Simic in general, but how much I enjoyed this book. A series of poems, prose poems, and other reflective pieces all centered on the life and art of Joseph Cornell. If Cornell's boxes and constructions cast a spell over you, you'll be equally enchanted with this book.

"their biographies explain nothing..." Good line. I need to pass it out to every undergrad I ever have.
Curtis Bauer
I can't believe I forgot this one. It's one of my favorite Simic books...partly because it's also about Cornell...another favorite, but the poems in here bring Cornell to life. Little fictions. And if you aren't familiar with Simic's work (but if you're a reader of the NY Rev. of Books, you'll have seen how smart his essays are), also look at his collections of essays, all through the Univ of Mich. Press, Poets on Poetry series.
Lauren Albert
This book is probably of interest only to people who like Charles Simic or Joseph Cornell. For people interested in Cornell's art, Simic is extraordinarily eloquent in his interpretation of Cornell's work. At least it resonated with me. The book is hard to classify. It is a mix of prose poems inspired by Cornell's work and mini-essays on that work. I'm going to paste my favorite passages from the book on my page. 3/09
Nick Pemberton

Simic is a terrific poet. Cornell's boxes are great. Psychogeography. Transience. Maps of dreams. Explorations. The reticence and magic spaces you get in in -f'rinstance -the music of Augustus Pablo are present in this work. Same way they are in Cornell's boxes. The ear and the eye hear and see...the mind connects what's seen and heard and read. Trust me -a terrific, and terrifically short- book.
Monkey C
simic's take on the creepy, unsettling world of joseph cornell. immediately after reading it, i wanted to go outside and collect a bunch of junk so i could put it in a box and hang it on a wall. cornell makes it look so simple, but there is a mastery to his work beyond words -- the odd combination of objects is somehow just right -- the work of a master craftsman.
A beautiful little book. Not so much art criticism of Cornell as a poet's sympathetic and imaginative reaction/response to Cornell's art. Illuminating and inspiring, written with jewel-cutting precision. Having read it, I now want to see more of Cornell's boxes and seek out Simic's books of poetry.
Wonderful book that I found myself reading aloud passages to others because I was so wanting to share the language and observations of Charles Simic.

Although primarily a meditation on the art of Joseph Cornell, Simic writes about beauty, art, and poetry.

Mar 14, 2008 Ruth rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
There are some real gems in this book. It's described as prose poems, but some of them seem more like bits of informative nonfiction. However, they're balance out by some wonderfully evocative pieces that are poems in every sense of the word.
J Simpson
Poetry based upon the shadow-boxes of Joseph Cornell, he captures beautifully the world in minauture, the flights of imagination, and the nostalgia inherent in that artist's work. For fans of one, or both, or brilliant writing in general.
Sherry (sethurner)
The book is a collection of short prose poems about Cornell's life and creative process, and there are a few black and white photos of his boxes. I was disappointed in the amount of information and the lack of color.
Jun 21, 2009 Molly rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: art people, prose poetry people, psychogeographers
Recommended to Molly by: Patrick
More biographies should be written like this. I'm going to have to chew on the material in here for a long time. I'm putting it next to Borges on my bookshelf: two objects that belong together.
a favorite poet/writer ruminating on a favorite artist = one of my favorite books. each little piece offers startling perspective on cornell's world and new york city and life, you know, itself.
Howard Mansfield
Simic’s poetry is a perfect match for Joseph Cornell’s arresting boxes displaying found objects. I’ve read Dime Store Alchemy a half dozen times and I’ll return to it again.

While hard for me to follow, the language is supremely beautiful in this book. It helped that I particularly like the artist the author is writing about.
I like this book, but it's just not as brilliant as looking at Joseph Cornell's work- it's not artistry-on-its-own and it tries to be. More's the pity.
An interesting book. Contains the author's response to 3 of Joseph Cornell's boxes though poetry, prose, and excerpts from Cornell's journals.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 21 22 next »
  • Utopia Parkway: The Life and Work of Joseph Cornell
  • Joseph Cornell: Master of Dreams
  • Born under Saturn: The Character and Conduct of Artists
  • Praise
  • The Ghost Soldiers
  • In Search of Duende
  • Scary, No Scary
  • Letters, Summer 1926
  • A Convergence of Birds: Original Fiction and Poetry Inspired by Joseph Cornell
  • The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and the Imagination
  • One with Others: [a little book of her days]
  • Still Life with Oysters and Lemon: On Objects and Intimacy
  • Picasso
  • Making Certain It Goes On: The Collected Poems of Richard Hugo
  • Lives of the Artists: Portraits of Ten Artists Whose Work and Lifestyles Embody the Future of Contemporary Art
  • Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures
  • Soul of Wood
  • The Quest for Corvo: An Experiment in Biography
Charles Simic (born Dušan Simić) is a Serbian-American poet and the 15th Poet Laureate of the United States. He is co-Poetry Editor of the Paris Review. Simic is the 2007 recipient of the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets. This $100,000 (US) prize recognizes outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry.
More about Charles Simic...
The World Doesn't End The Voice at 3:00 A.M.: Selected Late and New Poems Walking the Black Cat Hotel Insomnia Sixty Poems

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