John Lennon: How an ‘Annoying’ Book Helped Him Fall in Love With Yoko Ono

Yoko Ono made a lot of unorthodox music and art — and John Lennon was not always a fan. For example, he confessed to sometimes being annoyed by one of her pieces and other times enlightened by it. Here’s a look at how Yoko’s output annoyed John and helped him fall in love with her.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono with flowers
John Lennon and Yoko Ono | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The bizarre book John Lennon found annoying and enlightening

In 1970, John gave an interview to Rolling Stone’s Jann S. Wenner. He discussed both The Beatles and his album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band at length. However, he also took some time to discuss his relationship with Yoko. He consistently described her as a great, important artist even though he didn’t always like her work.

John described one of his early interactions with Yoko. “She gave me her Grapefruit book and I used to read it and sometimes I’d get very annoyed by it; it would say things like ‘paint until you drop dead’ or ‘bleed’ and then sometimes I’d be very enlightened by it and I went through all the changes that people go through with her work – sometimes I’d have it by the bed and I’d open it and it would say something nice and it would be alright and then it would say something heavy and I wouldn’t like it,” he said.

“Imagine”

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Afterward, Wenner asked John when he realized he loved Yoko. “It was beginning to happen; I would start looking at her book and that but I wasn’t quite aware what was happening to me and then she did a thing called Dance Event where different cards kept coming through the door everyday saying ‘Breathe’ and ‘Dance’ and ‘Watch all the lights until dawn,’ and they upset me or made me happy depending on how I felt.”

What exactly is Yoko Ono’s ‘Grapefruit’?

So what was Yoko’s book exactly? Grapefruit isn’t your average book. It contains no narrative.

The book is a series of instructions, some of which are impossible to complete. For example, one of these instructions commands the reader to cough for a whole year. Another, asks the reader to imagine a goldfish swimming across the sky from the West to the East and then back again. Grapefruit is precisely the sort of avant-garde work for which Yoko is known. In addition, it’s an example of the sort of experimental literature that was popular in the 1960s.

“Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking for a Hand in the Snow)”

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So why is the book called Grapefruit? According to Dazed, Yoko considers herself both Japanese and American — a hybrid of sorts. Similarly, she sees the grapefruit as a hybrid of an orange and a lemon. Originally, only 500 copies of Grapefruit were printed when Yoko first released the book in 1964. In 1970, John added his own introduction to the book. Grapefruit may not be famous. However, it has a unique legacy because it helped John fall in love with Yoko.