Last spring, I spent a week in a convent in the Midwest. I’d been invited there to do a series of seminars on language. They’d gotten my name from a list in Washington, from a brochure that described my work as “deals with the spiritual issues of our time”, undoubtedly a blurb I had written myself.
I never actually did the seminar. But I spent a lot of time there, walking around the grounds and looking at all the crops, which were all labeled. And there was also a neatly laid-out cemetery, hundreds of identical white crosses in rows, and they were labeled “Maria”, “Teresa”, “Maria Teresa”, “Teresa Maria”, and the only sadder cemetery I saw was last summer in Switzerland, and I was dragged there by a Hermann Hesse fanatic, a very sincere Swede who had never recovered from reading Siddhartha.
One hot August morning when the sky was quiet, we made a pilgrimage to the cemetery; we brought a lot of flowers and we finally found his grave. It was marked with a huge fir tree and a mammoth stone that said “HESSE” in huge Helvetica bold letters. It looked more like a marquee than a tombstone. And around the corner was this tiny stone for his wife — Nina — and on it was one word: “ausländer” — foreigner. And this made me so sad and so mad that I was sorry I’d brought the flowers.
Anyway, I decided to leave the flowers, along with a mean note, and it read: “Even though you’re not my favorite writer — by a long shot — I leave these flowers on your resting spot.”
— Laurie Anderson, The Ugly One with the Jewels