Dime-Store Alchemy cover
Special offer:
Offer summary:
(20% off)
Publication date:
September 12, 2006
NYRB Classics
Poets & Poetry, Visual & Performing Arts

In Dime-Store Alchemy, poet Charles Simic reflects on the life and work of Joseph Cornell,

the maverick surrealist who is one of America’s great artists. Simic’s spare prose is as enchanting and luminous as the mysterious boxes of found objects for which Cornell is justly renowned.

Includes 8 page color insert.


Dime—Store Alchemy…is the most sustained literary response this far to Cornell’s boxes, montages, and films…Incisive, freewheeling, dramatic? A mixture of evocation and observation, as lucid and shadowy as the imagination it celebrates…Dime—Store Alchemy is a meeting of kindred spirits that is itself a work of art.
— Edward Hirsch, The New Yorker

A beautiful book that evokes Cornell’s artistic spirit.
Harper’s Bazaar

Appropriately, this study is neither a straightforward critical account of Cornell’s art nor a merely literary embellishment of it, but rather a parallel text: written by Simic (Hotel Insomnia), one of our best poets, it includes his own poems and reminiscences, as well as quotations from a variety of other writers. Simic mingles biography and critical discussion with selections of writings from the artist’s notebooks. The book emerges as a piece of writing constructed along the enigmatic lines of Cornell’s art. And that art, as Simic sees it, gathers from the scattered pieces of the American past a new, redeeming reality; at heart, this art is a religious practice. Only seemingly random, Simic’s approach develops both the plain detail of Cornell’s life and illuminates the nature of his work.
Publisher’s Weekly