Grainger was a vegetarian who was not particularly fond of vegetables, and lived variously on nuts, boiled rice, wheatcakes, cakes, bread and jam, ice cream and oranges. Grainger was a sado-masochist, with a particular enthusiasm for flagellation, who extensively documented and photographed everything he and his wife did. His walls and ceilings were covered in mirrors so that after sessions of self-flagellation he could take pictures of himself from all angles, documenting each image with details such as date, time, location, whip used, and camera settings. He gave most of his earnings from 1934–1935 to the University of Melbourne for the creation and maintenance of a museum dedicated to himself. Along with his manuscript scores and musical instruments, he donated the photos, 73 whips, and blood-soaked shirts. Although the museum opened in 1935, it was not available to researchers until later. He was a cheerful believer in the racial superiority of blond-haired and blue-eyed northern Europeans. This led to attempts, in his letters and musical manuscripts, to use only what he called "blue-eyed English" (akin to Anglish and the 'Pure English' of Dorset poet William Barnes) which expunged all foreign (i.e., non-Germanic) influences. In Grainger's writings, a composer was a "tone-smith" who "dished up" his compositions and a piano was a "keyed-hammer-string". He hated Italian terms in music scores; "poco a poco crescendo molto" became "louden lots bit by bit". This bias was not consistently applied though: he was friends with and an admirer of Duke Ellington and George Gershwin, and also gave regular donations to African-American causes. Grainger eagerly collected folk music tunes, forms, and instruments from around the world, from Ireland to Bali, and incorporated them into his own works. Furthermore, alongside his love for Scandinavia was a deep distaste for German academic music theory; he almost always shunned such standard (and ubiquitous) musical structures as sonata form, calling them "German" impositions. He was ready to extend his admiration for the wild, free life of the ancient Vikings to other groups around the world, which in his view shared their way of life, such as the ancient Greece of the Homeric epics. Other departures from the common norms of the time included never ironing his shirts and wearing the same clothes for days. He once said "concert audiences can't tell the difference". While in America, he was twice arrested for vagrancy due to his dress. In his later years, when he scavenged in rubbish bins in the middle of the night for parts to make musical instruments, he dressed in his best clothes for the task. Grainger was a stout believer in natural forces and felt that the summer months were meant to be hot and the winter months were meant to be cold. Thus in winter he slept naked with his bedroom windows open, while spending the stifling summer evenings adorned in heavy wool.
"On falling into filth, there is only one thing for a man to do: just fall, without looking round. The important thing is just to do this with style and energy." - D.K.
Daniil Kharms is the best known pen name of Daniil Ivanovich Yuvachev, one of the finest of the Russian avant-garde absurdists. Born in St. Petersburg in 1904 and arrested in 1941 for 'defeatism', he died of starvation in a prison hospital along with so many others. His father, Ivan Iuvachev, was a member of The People’s Will, an organisation that advocated for universal suffrage, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and permanent political representation. He too was arrested.
Kharms once declared that only two things in life are of great worth: humour and saintliness, but against the prevailing Socialist Realist aesthetic, Kharms' saintliness was understandably considered 'antisocial'. Between his birth and death he wrote hundreds of poems and stories, using more than 30 pseudonyms.
The adult prose (Kharms also wrote children's fiction) takes the form of short aphoristic stories, frequently referred to as "incidents". The term comes from the consensus translation of "Sluchai", the name Kharms gave to a cycle of works written between 1933 and 1937 and is often used to refer to a broader class of his writings than the body of the cycle. The incidents range from short to extremely short. An example of the later:
An old man was scratching his head with both hands. In places where he couldn't reach with both hands, he scratched himself with one, but very, very fast. And while he was doing it he blinked rapidly.
Like the French playwright Alfred Jarry, Kharms cultivated a bohemian eccentricity, treating his life as one more artistic medium to be formed, elaborated, and put in the window. Against the backdrop of anti-aristocratic Soviet sentiment and although he was not noble by birth, Kharms cultivated old money charm and petty affectations with what might be called the energetic spirit of 'defeatism'. While those accused of being former noblemen were being deported, or worse, Kharms carried silver goblets in his briefcase and wasted few opportunities to display his 'family heirlooms'. With friends, in workers bars, and anywhere else cups were required, he would make a point of refusing to drink from anything else.
He would wear a false moustache to the opera and declare that to go to the theatre without one was indecent. In the moustache's style and a great many other mannerisms Kharms confessed that he was aping his brother, a Privatdozent at the University of Petersburg, who, Kharms forgot to add, he had also invented.
'What kind of machine?'
'No kind. Just a machine in general.'
'And where does it come from?'
'I put it together myself,' Kharms said proudly.
'What does it do?'
'It does nothing.'
'What do you mean nothing?'
'What is it for?'
'I just wanted to have a machine at home.' "
and the following from a wonderful short story called The Old Woman, A Tale
Now I feel sleepy but I am not going to sleep. I get hold of a piece of paper and a pen and I am going to write. I feel within me a terrible power. I thought it all over as long ago as yesterday. It will be the story about a miracle worker who is living in our time and who doesn't work any miracles. He knows that he is a miracle worker and that he can perform any miracle, but he doesn't do so. He is thrown out of his flat and he knows that he only has to wave a finger and the flat will remain his, but he doesn't do this; he submissively moves out of the flat and lives out of town in a shed. He is capable of turning this shed into a fine brick house, but he doesn't do this; he carries on living in the shed and eventually dies, without having done a single miracle in the whole of his life.