Unreal Nature

February 4, 2015

Tapping the Doll’s Head

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:35 am

… he didn’t want to be tyrannized by impatience …

This is from Ralph Eugene Meatyard edited with text by James Baker Hall and reminiscence by Guy Davenport (1974). First from Davenport’s segment:

… Light as it falls from the sun into our random world defines everything perceptible to the eye by constant accident, relentlessly changing. A splendid spot of light on a fence is gone in a matter of seconds. A tone of light is frailer in essence than a whiff of roses. I have watched Gene all of a day wandering around the ruined Whitehall photographing as diligently as if he were a newsreel cameraman in a battle. The old house was as quiet and still as eternity itself; to Gene it was as ephemeral in its shift of light and shade as a fitful moth.

He developed his film only once a year; he didn’t want to be tyrannized by impatience, and I suspect that he didn’t like being cooped up in the darkroom.

The rest is from Hall:

Ralph Eugene Meatyard is Eyeglasses of Kentucky in the Imperial Plaza Shopping Center in Lexington, 1969.

He’s at his workbench in the back room of his new shop on Saturday morning with a cup of tea and the radio. He is waiting as patiently as a bird watcher, for business. He had a good job at Tinder-Krauss-Tinder, but he always wanted a shop of his own. A small one-way peek window lets him watch the shop and the shopping center parking lot and the hospital across the street. [ … ] The receptionist sits at the desk near the front door and files her nails. [ … ] There’s an exhibition of his photographs on the walls of the shop. Two carloads of students and professors from Ohio are coming in the afternoon when the shop is closed to see the show and to meet him. [ … ] His hobby is collecting strange names from newspapers and phone books and magazines and other sources he deems reliable: Lummy Jean Licklighter, T. Bois Dangling, Jr., Margaret A. Ditto Ditto, Pharoh Feeback and Connie Fongdong, Everette Derryberry and Decimus Ultimus, five brothers named Ecton, Chansman, Shanch, Sell, and James — each verified by an address and kept neatly listed in a small brown loose-leaf notebook. He won’t let his thirteen-year-old son, Christopher, make five dollars washing the plate-glass windows of Eyeglasses of Kentucky on Saturday morning again until he cuts his hair. He would go out and talk to the receptionist except he wants to appear busy. In front of him on the workbench the decapitated head of a pink doll is set on a pedestal of boxes containing his pictures of the Red River Gorge. Waiting for business he entertains himself by tapping the doll’s head lightly with a tack hammer and watching her expression change.




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