De Kooning's Bicycle
Artists and Writers in the Hamptons
By Robert Long
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Hardcover, 9780374165383, 224pp.)
Publication Date: November 9, 2005
Enter your zip code below to find indies closest to you.
Some of the twentieth century's most important artists and writers--from Jackson Pollock to Saul Steinberg, Frank O'Hara to Jean Stafford--lived and worked on the East End of Long Island years before it assumed an alternate identity as the Hamptons. The home they made there, and its effect on their work, is the subject of these searching, lyrical vignettes by the critic and poet Robert Long.
Pollock moved to Springs because he thought he wanted to stop drinking, but he found a connection to nature there that inspired some of the most significant paintings of our time. Others followed him. When Fairfield Porter bought a house in Southampton, the New York School suddenly had a new headquarters, and James Schuyler and Frank O'Hara found companionship and raw material for their poems on South Main Street and on the three-hour train ride between the city and the East End. Willem de Kooning rode his bike every day between his studio in the East Hampton woods and the bay, where the light informed every brushstroke he put to canvas from the early 1960s on.
In De Kooning's Bicycle, Long mixes storytelling with history to re-create the lives and events that shaped American art and literature as we know it today, in a landscape where town met country and the modern met America's rural past.
Robert Long is the editor of Long Island Poets and a contributor to The New Yorker and The Partisan Review, among other publications. He lives in East Hampton, New York.
"You must read these beautifully written and sensitive portraits of several of the major figures in the arts who inhabited the east end of Long Island during its great creative period--De Kooning, Pollock, Krasner, Jean Stafford, Saul Steinberg, and others. Those of us who knew these extraordinary people are grateful to have our memories sharpened; those who are meeting them for the first time here have the thrill of discovery ahead of them. This is an invaluable book."--Edward Albee
"Before Hollywood invaded the Hamptons and McMansions replaced potato fields, the region played a vital role in the history of mid-twentieth-century American art. Poet and Hamptons native Robert Long tells this engrossing story with a novelist's flair." --John Ashbery
"If, as De Kooning said, art is a big soup, Robert Long has given us the goggles to plumb for the most delectable bits. Long's memoir ranks with the cultural criticism of Shattuck's Banquet Years: his eye for beauty, masterful style, and historical sense make this a shining gift to the world." --Mary Karr, author of Cherry
"De Kooning's Bicycle is a beautiful, heartbreaking book and an astonishing act of clairvoyance. Robert Long enters the minds of the brilliant dead--Pollock, De Kooning, O'Hara--and looks through their eyes, infused with the sweetness and melancholy of the East End landscape and its marine light. The book's poetry and emotional precision ensure that it will be not just read but reread." --Luc Sante, author of Low Life