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Affinities, Robert Seydel

October 26th, 2011

On October 21, 2011 Printed Matter in New York City hosted an evening celebrating Book of Ruth by Robert Seydel. Senior BOMB Magazine editor and poet Mónica de la Torre helmed a far-reaching and deeply insightful conversation about Seydel’s work with poet Peter Gizzi and artist Richard Kraft, both friends of Seydel since high school and college, respectively. (Bios and event info at the end of the post.)

The audio was recorded on an iphone and begins with Mónica de la Torre speaking just after a short introduction which included Siglio publisher Lisa Pearson reading Seydel’s preface (text below) from the Book of Ruth. After the preface, you can find the images that were referenced during the evening. The audio just below may take a minute or so to download.




As my hair dries my mind goes.
—Ruth Greisman

The Book of Ruth is concerned with two main characters, my aunt and uncle, Ruth and Sol Greisman, who were siblings, born in Brooklyn, New York. Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp put in minor appearances as friends to both of them. A fifth character, mostly invisible, is “Robt,” or Robert Cornell, Joseph Cornell’s homebound brother, or myself, nephew, and the “half-wit” of the Book. Neither Ruth nor Sol married; they lived together for the better part of their adult lives in a small apartment in Queens, New York, not far from the Cornell house on Utopia Parkway.

Sol (sometimes Saul) was in real life a veteran of the First World War and suffered, as it was later said, from shell shock. After the War he became a plumber. Ruth was a Sunday painter who worked days in a bank and was active in Hadassah. In the Book the two of them meet Cornell and, through him, Marcel Duchamp. Ruth fell in love with the former, who was, in his own way, as impossible and sealed-off as her brother.

Ruth is the artist in the Book, her work taking the form of mailings to Joseph, various serial and other collages, such as Ten Tiny Collages for Teeny, and journal writings. Her work was first discovered among the boxes of miscellanea in the Joseph Cornell Study Center at The Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Later research by family members turned up a treasure trove of material in a garage in suburban Fort Lee, New Jersey. Ruth’s emblem is the hare, Sol’s the worm, or sometimes a star-nosed mole.


Siglio Ephemera: from 5 HARES & 3 RUTHS

One View of Robert Seydel’s Library
(photo: Richard Kraft)

Collaged Text

On left, “Moth” and on right, “R. ‘Our Bob'” from Book of Ruth by Robert Seydel

“Yeg” from Book of Ruth by Robert Seydel

Seydel + Duchamp

“Also a pharmacology, for marcel” from Book of Ruth by Robert Seydel and featured in BOMB, Winter 2011

“Pharmacy” by Marcel Duchamp

“Marcel Duchamp, Par-Fume” from Book of Ruth by Robert Seydel

On Hares & Stains

“Untitled [Hare, Dürer-type]” from Book of Ruth by Robert Seydel

Seydel’s Desk at Richard Kraft’s Playa del Rey studio

Untitled (Sun) by Robert Seydel

Printed Matter Event Info & Participant Bios

Book of Ruth is available directly from Siglio press. Use code AMHERST for a 15% discount or sign-up for the Siglio mailing list to get special offers and discounts throughout the year. All images and text by Robert Seydel and photographs by Richard Kraft are copyrighted. Please credit any online usage appropriately and link back to this post. Thank you.

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