Neon and nothingness

Keen readers of Sharks, Death, Surfers will know that I like neon.

But when I check, there is none in M. Sendak’s 1970 In the Night Kitchen

I don’t know if this is because it’s difficult to convey neon-ness using the media that Sendak does his drawings in. Or whether he wanted to depict a city that didn’t include neon.

The wonderful Joseph Mitchell, who loves his city, writes, in The Bottom of the Harbour, 1951:

“The lower part of Edgewater is called Shadyside; the ferry boat was named for it. It is a mixed residential and factory district. The majority of the factories are down close to the river, in a network of railroad sidings, and piers jut out from them. Among them are an Aluminum Company of America factory, a coffee-roasting plant, a factory that makes roofing materials, a factory that makes sulphuric acid, and a factory that makes a shortening named Spry. On the roof of the Spry factory is an enormous electric sign; the sign looms over the river, and on rainy, foggy nights its pulsating, endlessly repeated message, “SPRY FOR BAKING,” “SPRY FOR BAKING,” “SPRY FOR BAKING,” seems to be a cryptic warning of some kind that New Jersey is desperately trying to get across to New York.”

Mitchell, too, has electric, not neon signs. What do they mean, the coded warnings reflected over the dark water?

Here’s Charles Bridge, Prague, circa 1950, just because Josef Sudek is so good:

image from

And here’s the (almost) original front cover of Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, or, L’être et le néant. Essai d’ontologie phénoménologique, Gallimard edition, 1943: