Duck Nutcracker

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Object No. 10 of 50 — Significant Objects v2

Object No. 10 of 50 — Significant Objects v2

[The auction for this Significant Object, with story by Wayne Koestenbaum, has ended. Original price: $3. Final price: $37.00. Significant Objects will donate the proceeds of this auction to 826 National.]

Gloria Swanson owned a duck nutcracker. Guests, including Jean Harlow and Franchot Tone, cracked nuts at Gloria’s cocktail parties.

After Gloria died, John Travolta inherited the contraption. He brought it out as a conversation piece when Roland Barthes came calling.

Then the duck nutcracker fell out of favor.

I found it at a hand-me-down tchotchke shop in Culver City and bought it for Nicole Kidman.

Nicole grew furious at the nutcracker’s improper performance.

“The stars are peeved at me,” thought the duck.

And: “I’m not to blame for the rancid walnuts that enter my body.”

Nicole gave the nutcracker to Miranda, her dipsomaniacal cook, who returned it to me.

I put my wedding-ring finger in its vise and broke my knuckle.

The duck asked to be psychoanalyzed.

The duck is not fake! The duck has an unconscious!

The duck wished that Jayne Mansfield were alive. Only Jayne understood the duck’s delicate sensibility.

“I, too, had a career,” thought the duck, remembering happy-go-lucky, pre-doom days, when The Girl Can’t Help It set the tone.

The duck was delusional.

“I’m a Valkyrie astride her wingèd horse,” thought the duck, stuck in a phase of adolescent rebellion against invisible authorities.

I forgot to mention an important fact. The duck was made in Lisbon in 1925 by a Jewish mystic named Abraham Pacheco, who lived in a dusty, book-crammed atelier on the Largo de São Carlos, near Fernando Pessoa’s house. Abraham overcame a mild case of tuberculosis, fell in love with a dissident nun from the Convento da Ordem do Carmo, and eloped with her to Hollywood, where they opened a duck nutcracker shop, frequented by the stars.

Duck Nutcracker Open


Wayne Koestenbaum has published five books of poetry (most recently, Best-Selling Jewish Porn Films), a novel (Moira Orfei in Aigues-Mortes), and six books of criticism (Hotel Theory, Andy Warhol, Cleavage, Jackie Under My Skin, The Queen’s Throat, and Double Talk). He is a Distinguished Professor of English at the CUNY Graduate Center, and a Visiting Professor in the painting department of Yale's School of Art.

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