Home » ARTSY FARTSY » JEAN SHEPHERD Kids Stories, Encounters Selling Seeds 2 & (65) ARTSY Artists Books -Willie Masters’ & Turn Over

JEAN SHEPHERD Kids Stories, Encounters Selling Seeds 2 & (65) ARTSY Artists Books -Willie Masters’ & Turn Over


About forty-five kids immediately put their hands up for morning glory seeds.  They were way ahead of their time.  The next thing I knew I was leaving the second grade classroom with a seed kit that included nasturtiums, morning glories, and peonies—very big on peonies and hollyhocks.  I was also very big on miniature chrysanthemums guaranteed to grow in many beautiful, multifarious colors.

Well, I left there with a kit, which also included instructions on how to use it.  It told how to approach a prospect.  The first thing it said was to assume that everybody wants seeds.  It is very wrong to assume that you have to convince people to want seeds.  You must go up on the porch and know that people want seeds.  It is only up to you to uncover the latent desire to own seeds.  That’s all there is.  They all want ‘em.

I remember they came in these little envelopes.  They were ten cents a package.  And the first thing that happened, of course, was that one of them leaked.  I was not more than a half a block out of the school and one of the peony envelopes was leaking all over the place from the bottom of my little kit and the seeds were bouncing around.  It was a terrible thing.  I tried to stick them back in the envelope. Already bad merchandise.   Already I was ten cents down.




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In my artists’ book collection I have two that are strikingly unusual/strikingly similar/strikingly different books, both featuring a naked woman.

One embodies the primacy of words, the other completely dispenses with words as unnecessary.

•   •   


Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife

William Gass, renowned literary critic and author of works on the theoretical nature and uses of words, created the short fictional work, Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife, in 1968, the 6-1/4” X 10” paperback, which has a front cover of a naked woman from the front, and back cover of the naked woman from the back.

Front & Back Covers

A commentator notes about the book that:

“…we are presented with a strong correspondence between the physicality of the human body and of the work of literature, not to mention the overt sexualization of writing. Literature as a form of seduction.”

Larry McCaffery in a publication of the U. of Illinois writes:

Gass never allows the reader to forget that literature is made of words and nothing else; …the narrator of the work…is that lady, language herself….the central metaphor of the whole work: that a parallel exists—or should exist—between a woman and her lover, between the work of art and the artist, and between a book and its reader.




(Lawrence Levy is credited with the book design.) A  different colored paper is used for each section, suggesting changes happening in the sequence of the lovemaking described. Thus, every aspect of the book’s design emphasizes a metaphor of reading books, words in our life, and in our metaphorical love(making).

•   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   


Turn Over Darling

At a Long Island Antiquarian Book Fair some years ago, I unexpectedly encountered a bookseller of artists’ books! Among his books was one made of hand-crafted paper impressed with wire-formed images of a naked woman slowly turning over, page-spread-by-spread, forming a complete turn of her body in the eleven full spreads—and a half-spread each at its beginning and its ending.

As each sheet has the convex impression of the wire arrangement on one side and its concave impression on the reverse–the right side of each spread is a reverse of the following page’s left-hand side–forming a continuity from the beginning of the book to the end. As one turns the page, that  repetition in reverse image gives a feeling of motion. See the first two images for this.

I was not familiar with the work of Ronald King, British artist-bookmaker. King is connected with London’s, Circle Press, which made this 7 – 3/4” X 6” boxed volume, Turn Over Darling.

One needs no words to feel the sensuality of the paper and the curvaceous lines forming the body of the woman changing positions, created by using the essence of “the book”–incorporating the act of turning pages in sequence. Thus, the title’s double usage of the words “turn over,” for the woman is being told to turn over, and to appreciate the book, we readers must engage with the pages by turning them over.


Note right-page’s image above

and, reversed,

left-page’s image below.



•   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   

These books were made through the creative fusion of each artist’s intellect and sensuality. Only recently did I recognize the similarity and contrasting relationship between these two volumes—which will now always remain bound together in my consciousness and also, found on the same shelf, snuggled side by side.




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