Brought to you by the letter I

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An essay commissioned as part of the Museum of Modern Art exhibition Ecstatic Alphabets / Heaps of Language.

I. THE PLEASURE OF THE TEXT

“I invited a friend of mine over for dinner,” says the man ruefully. The gray-faced, middle-aged fellow is a squiggly animation, made of skinny, put-upon lines that form sluggish shapes. His dinner guest is nothing like him. The little friend who bounces through the French doors is the letter M, angular and robust. M has googly eyes at the tops of his twin peaks, which extend downward to become super-springy legs and dancing feet that also serve as his hands. M hops into his host’s outstretched palm, then rubs against his jowls like a cat. The gray man, beleaguered by these shows of affection, trudges toward a grand table piled with a colorful smorgasbord, plus candelabra. He slumps in his seat and invites the bug-eyed M to dig in. “Mmmmm, marvelous!” the M cries. “Meat! Munch! Magnificent!” M’s center of gravity is his mouth; a rib-eye steak, a loaf of bread, a glass of wine vanish into the V-shaped dip. The bottom point of this center “V” is also a straw, slurping up a glass of milk in one go. “Milk!” he says. The two upside-down Vs on either side of M’s mouth are pincers, chomping instantaneously through an entire melon. “Mmm-melon!” he says.

From THE SERVING LIBRARY

Jessica Winter

Jessica Winter @ Adrian Kinloch

Jessica Winter is executive editor of newyorker.com and a former editor at Slate and Time. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Bookforum, The Believer, and many other publications. She lives with her family in Flatbush, Brooklyn.