Verve by
(70 Stories)

Prompted By Magazines

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Francisco Bores

I grew up with the popular magazines of the day around me…my dad read Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report, there was always a Life and, for a shorter time, a Look on the living room coffee table, McCall’s (with the Betsy McCall paper dolls, which I cut out religiously) and Good Housekeeping in the den. My older brother read Mad, and I vaguely remember reading My Weekly Reader and Highlights for Children, and later, as a teenager, Seventeen. But the magazines I most cared about belonged to my Great Uncle Jack, who came to live with us for the last few years of his life.

The crown jewels of his magazine collection are the first eight issues of Verve. He wouldn't let me touch them, but would instead slowly turn the pages for me.

Uncle Jack was different. To the best of my knowledge, he had no friends, never dated or married, never drove, and lived with his mother until she passed away. He was extremely nearsighted and wore very thick glasses, holding things up to his face to read them, and he had a raspy voice, and an odd shuffle to his walk. He had a small but impressive collection of magazines, art books, classical literature, museum catalogs, LPs, and playbills. After he passed, my mom sold all the LPs in a garage sale, but I have everything else.

Joan Miró

The crown jewels of his magazine collection are the first eight issues of Verve — The French Review of Art. He wouldn’t let me touch them, but would instead slowly turn the large (10″ x 14″) pages for me, neither of us saying much, just looking. First published in 1937, in Paris, each magazine features a cover and, within, a selection of lithographs by some of the most revered artists of the day — Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Joan Miró, Georges Braque, and Paul Klee to name just a few, as well as other types of reproductions, photographs, and writings.

I’ve always thought I didn’t discover art until I was in my 40s. I simply didn’t see it; and if called upon to draw, I was limited to stick figures. But maybe my passion was kindled by these magazines, smoldering inside me until I finally woke up and stoked the fire. Because I had looked at those magazines; they were in there, part of me. And for some reason I hung onto them. Through 37 moves, I brought them with me…and they’re heavy, by the way! But whenever I look at them — which is not that often, because they’re very fragile now — I’m inspired anew and in awe of the creative genius that lies within them.

I also loved Archie comic books…do those count as magazines?

Great Uncle Jack, Great Grandmother & Me

Interesting Note











Profile photo of Barbara Buckles Barbara Buckles
Artist, writer, storyteller, spy. Okay, not a spy…I was just going for the rhythm.

I call myself “an inveterate dabbler.” (And my husband calls me “an invertebrate babbler.”) I just love to create one way or another. My latest passion is telling true stories live, on stage. Because it scares the hell out of me.

As a memoirist, I focus on the undercurrents. Drawing from memory, diaries, notes, letters and photographs, I never ever lie, but I do claim creative license when fleshing out actual events in order to enhance the literary quality, i.e., what I might have been wearing, what might have been on the table, what season it might have been. By virtue of its genre, memoir also adds a patina of introspection and insight that most probably did not exist in real time.

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Characterizations: right on!, well written


  1. John Shutkin says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Barb. I have only a vague recollection of Verve. But it obviously had an amazing impact on you and your appreciation of art. And clearly, with Uncle Jack, still waters ran very deep(ly).

    Ialso loved Archie, by the way. I trust you know there has been a series on TV the last three or four years called “Riverdale” and based on its characters. But (I gather) even Jughead is sexy.

  2. Marian says:

    Verve is beautiful, Barb. I had no idea it even existed, so thank you for this story. I was never a big Archie fan but I could see how these comics would be appealing.

  3. Suzy says:

    Wow, Barb, I had never heard of Verve, but it looks amazing! How lucky you were to have an Uncle Jack to introduce you to it. I don’t blame you for keeping those magazines through 37 moves. I am a huge Miró fan, and would kill to have those lithographs!

    I also loved Archie comics, I think those count as magazines. My daughter Sabrina loved Archie comics too, so they had equal appeal to the next generation. As John mentioned, there is the TV show Riverdale, which has had 4 seasons and a 5th one was just getting underway when the pandemic caused them to shut down.

    • Yes, they’re absolutely amazing! I’m in a quandary over what to do with them…I see them on eBay from time to time for several hundred dollars each and even the individual lithographs that have been removed are selling for hundreds. I just can’t bring myself to tear the magazines apart, especially since I have the first eight issues intact. I keep thinking I’ll take them to Antiques Roadshow some day and find out the collection is worth a mint.

  4. Betsy Pfau says:

    WOW! Now those are magazines! Simply amazing. Real works of art. Now I see where your artistic sensibility comes from, Barb. (Look at my story for the prompt “surprise” and you’ll see me wearing a Miro tee shirt.) Verve looks incredible, real treasures, like a trip to an art museum.

    I liked Archie comics too. I’d forgotten that.

    • They really are special, Bets…sometimes I look at them and feel like I’ve gone back in time and am that much closer to those masters. Saw an incredible Miró exhibit at MOMA just days before they closed for renovations last year. They re-opened but then closed again due to COVID…thankfully they do plan to re-open yet again. I can’t believe my favorite hotel in NYC (the Omni Berkshire) is closed for good as is their location in Chicago. Sad beyond words.

  5. Laurie Levy says:

    I think those Verve magazines definitely resided in your subconscious, Barb. Too bad they are so fragile now. I wonder if there is some way to preserve them. And by the way, I also loved Archie. Maybe a prompt on comic books someday? And the most important question of all: Were you a Betty or a Veronica?

    • Right now they’re stacked in an archival box but they should probably be stored individually and interleaved with acid-free paper. I know just the place to get all that…thanks for mentioning it! I wanted to be like Betty because she was so nice, but I just didn’t have the bubbly blond personality so I felt more like a secret Veronica…and I related to the dark hair.

  6. BB, how about framing some of your favorite lithographed plates from your Verves to hang on your walls to enjoy every day!

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