Bookshelf: Georgia


Dawn Tripp

Published 2016

Mystery, 318 pages

Spanning 1915 to the 1980s, Tripp’s historical fiction account follows the life of American artist Georgia O’Keeffe, from her First Person perspective. Much fascination revolves around the infamous affair between a young O’Keeffe and her older, but perhaps not wiser lover, Alfred Stieglitz. From her home in Texas, Georgia travels to New York to live alongside Stieglitz, in his bed and in his world, growing into herself as an artist and a lover. The narrative is inspired by letters to and from the artist, and by other accounts of O’Keeffe’s deliberately private life.

Review 

I was already a great admirer of Georgia O’Keeffe, knowing only a little about her life in a biographical sense and I had only vague knowledge of her relationship with Alfred Stieglitz. Whether or not Tripp’s interpretation of O’Keeffe’s life can be trusted in a question for another day, but the narrative feels genuine, and is powerfully written. I am inspired by this work to explore Tripp’s other novels, and to delve into other works dedicated to the life and art of Georgia O’Keeffe.


Limited to words I either did not know yet, or that I never really think about when I encounter them. Definitions found on

doyenne an astronomical instrument for taking the altitude of the sun or stars and for the solution of other problems in astronomy and navigation: used by Greek astronomers from about 200BC and by Arab astronomers from the Middle Ages until superseded by the sextent

aquiline (of the nose) shaped like an eagle’s beak; hooked

palladium a rare metallic element of the platinum group, silver-white, ductile and malleable, harder and fusing more readily than platinum

indissoluble not dissoluble; incapable of being dissolved, decomposed, undone, or destroyed

inimitable incapable of being imitated or copied; surpassing imitation; matchless

untenable incapable of being defended, as an argument, thesis; indefensible

tacit understood without being openly expressed; implied; silent, saying nothing; unvoiced or unspoken

staid of settled or sedate character; not flighty or capricious; fixed, settled, or permanent

troubadour one of a class of medieval lyric poets who flourished principally in southern France from the 11th to 13th centuries, and wrote songs and poems of a complex metrical form in langue d’oc, chiefly on themes of courtly love; any wandering singer or minstrel

aureate golden or gilded; brilliant; splendid; characterized by an ornate style of writing or speaking

Pygmalion Classical Mythology: A sculptor and king of Cyprus who carved an ivory statue of a maiden and fell in love with it. It was brought to life, in response to his prayer, by Aphrodite.

galatea a strong cotton fabric, plain or striped, for clothing

cogent convincing or believable by virtue of forcible, clear, or incisive presentation; telling; to the point; relevant; pertinent

stodgy heavy, dull, or uninteresting; tediously commonplace; boring; of a thick, semisolid consistency; heavy, as food; stocky; thick-set; old-fashioned; unduly formal and traditional; dull; graceless; inelegant

grippe influenza

laud to praise; extol; a song or hymn of praise; Ecclesiastical: a canonical hour, marked especially by psalms of praise, usually recited with matins

tensile of or relating to tension; capable of being stretched or drawn out; ductile

ductile capable of being hammered out thin, as certain metals; malleable; capable of being drawn out into wire or threads, as gold; able to undergo change of form without breaking; capable of being molded or shaped; plastic

rill a small rivulet or brook

mullion a vertical member, as of stone or wood, between the lights of a window, the panels in wainscoting, or the like; one of the radiating bars of a rose window or the like; to furnish with, or to form into divisions by the use of, mullions

frisson a sudden, passing sensation of excitement; a shudder of emotion; thrill

sateen a strong cotton fabric constructed in satin weave and having a lustrous face

skinflint a mean, niggardly person; miser

niggardly reluctant to give or spend; stingy; miserly; meanly or ungenerously small or scanty

cabalism the principles or doctrines of the cabala; an interpretation of something according to the doctrines of the cabala

cabala a system of esoteric theosophy and theurgy developed by rabbis, reaching its peak about the 12th and 13th centuries, and influencing certain medieval and Renaissance Christian thinkers.

pellucid allowing the maximum passage of light, as glass; translucent; clear or limpid; clear in meaning, expression, or style

ferrule a ring or cap, usually of metal, put around the end of a post, cane, or the like, to prevent splitting; a short metal sleeve for strengthening a tool handle at the end holding the tool; a bushing or adapter holding the end of a tube and inserted into a hole in a plate in order to make a tight fit, used in boilers, condensers; a short ring for reinforcing or decreasing the interior diameter of the end of a tube; a short plumbing fitting, covered at its outer end and caulked or otherwise fixed to a branch from a pipe so that it can be removed to give access to the interior of the pipe; Angling: either of two fittings on the end of a section of a sectional fishing rod, one fitting serving as a plug and the other as a socket for fastening the sections together; one of two or more small rings spaced along the top of a casting rod to hold and guide the line


I won’t do this for every book, but when I come across an author whose prose is often too poetic to risk forgetting, I just have to make a note.

A life is built of lies and magic, illusions bedded down with dreams.”

‘You have it mixed up,’ I say. I point to my painting. ‘This here is my work. The teaching – that’s just my job.’”

I’ve explained to him that living with me for half an instant would shred him to bits.”

I have seen into the future, I could tell him. In that future, I am always alone.”

–the soft work of night, how it skinned the world open.”

I kept that painting for a very long time after, to remind me.” (On showing a painting to a professor, and standing by while he mutilated it with his own brush, to correct her.)

–to what is private and tender and mine.” (On her intimacy with her lover.)

–born out of the wind and the plains and the bone-blue sky.” (Quoted from a review of O’Keeffe’s work.)

I want it all.”

A woman is never going to gain anything dressing herself up like a man.”

It was easier to turn on them than look too closely at what I did not want to see.”

–fugitive evanescent forms–”

–composition not as an arrangement of pretty things, but as space filled in a meaningful way.”

No man has ever been written down the way they think they have license to write me down.”

Life isn’t quite my strong point these days.”

Sometimes I feel like I’ll spend my entire life trying to win you once, all of you, just for an instant.”

You know I can’t promise to obey, Alfred. That’s what you loved about me to begin with.”

Please call back when the light is gone.”

–like the memory of a country we once sped through.”

And for the first time in a dozen years, it occurs to me that perhaps Stieglitz is not my life, but a detour from it.”

(The bones are) not death. But the life that is left over.”

This is where life dwells, in the unregistered time between moments when you are filled with no thought.”

I will say I took nothing. A woman who keeps nothing. A woman who has stripped her world down to tomorrow.”

I have worked hard to build a legend to replace the one he fashioned for me.”


About RicoChey

I'm just an unmarried, childless, thirty-something high school dropout with big ideas and a small attention span. Weave drunkenly behind me as I meander through my own life: a winding path of musings on life, relationships, food, the few politics I can stomach discussing, and probably really dumb stuff like the ratio of Sex and the City episodes wherein Carrie does and does not appear to be wearing extensions.
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