How to Do What Yoko Wants You To: Grapefruit, 51 Years Later


At the press preview for MoMA’s “Yoko Ono: One Woman Show,” the show's co-curator, Klaus Biesenbach, quoted one of Ono’s poetic directives from her famous typewritten book full of them, Grapefruit: “Throw a stone into the sky high enough so it will not come back.” Maybe he was worried that this show might come crashing down on his (and the museum’s) head, like the Björk exhibit he did earlier this spring, to much critical stone-casting. But the Ono show opened May 18, to pretty great reviews, and has helped reclaim both Biesenbach’s and, for that matter, Ono’s reputations. (Christophe Cherix co-curated the show.)

One of its many artifactual pleasures is the wall of framed typescripts from Grapefruit — 151 in all, often dated in pen. Ono had self-published 500 copies of the book version of it in 1964, four years before she and John Lennon got together, catapulting her to a great deal of fame (not to mention Beatles-busting-up blame). Lennon later credited its whimsy for helping inspire the song “Imagine.” After it was reissued by Simon & Schuster, with an introduction by Lennon, in 1970, the book became something of a hippie-era home-décor cliché. MoMA has again reissued it; you can buy it for $150. But its Dadaish optimism is, decades later, easier to see. We’ve excerpted it here.