Surrealist Pen Pals

ILLUSTRATION BY JOEL HOLLAND

The exquisite corpse was a parlor game played by the Surrealists, those convention-spurning artists, writers and pranksters who flourished in 1920s Paris. Its objective: to uncover the magic of accident. One person would write the opening of a sentence, fold the paper to conceal part of it, pass it to a companion for continuation, and so on around the table. The first attempt contained the nonsense phrase "exquisite corpse," and the name stuck.

History does not record whether visiting U.S. writers joined in the fun. But they were thick on the ground in Paris back then, so collaboration...

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