To kick off 50 Books for Problematic Times, Cara Kulwicki has contributed a review of Grapefruit by artist, writer, and my favorite Twitter-er Yoko Ono. You can find Cara at Feministe, The Curvature, and Tangerine Dreams (where Beatles fans will find many many lovely pictures of the boys.) Also seriously recommended is her series on cultural reaction to Ono at The Curvature. Enjoy!
Grapefruit isn't your ordinary book. It's not a novel or a piece of non-fiction. It's a book of art, though it doesn't contain photographs of Ono's completed work. It's poetry; it's a collage. Ultimately, it's a book of instructions -- instructions for you, the reader, to create your own conceptual art.
Yoko Ono's husband John Lennon once said that the first time he started reading Grapefruit, it utterly baffled him. Then, the perceived nonsense between the pages greatly angered him. And finally, it clicked, and he suddenly understood both the sincerity and the joke. His process wasn't unique; in fact it mirrored mine almost exactly, and those of most I've known to pick up the book. And we who stuck with it to the end have almost always found it worth it.
Grapefruit is an amazing primer to Ono's artistic style and thought process, and still one of her best works. For her, ideas are art, and art is entirely about audience participation. Some of those ideas are utterly hilarious. Others are incredibly solemn. All are thought-provoking. You're not actually intended to perform most of the pieces, at least not physically. Most of it is head work. And it's capable of opening you up to a new way of abstract and idealistic form of thinking.
Yoko Ono is sadly best known not for her work, but for the lies told about her. If you want to know who Ono really is, and what she really does, there is no better place to start than Grapefruit.
50 Books for Problematic Times is still accepting submissions!