Man's sitting in a bar, the only one there excepting the tender, who goes to the back room for a bit (man's a regular, nothing to worry about). Reaches into the bowl of peanuts to grab a few, but when he pulls his hand away the nuts have interlocked around it so as to create a perfect rectangular solid, absolutely smooth, like metal. And more nuts are following, drawn on by who knows what power, and now his entire forearm's encased. By the time the bartender returns the man is nearly entirely held within a gapless rectangle of peanut, only his head free to gasp out "what is this? help me!" and the bartender, idly cleaning a glass as the peanuts fly down the man's gullet, sealing his fate and his respiratory tract, responds, "oh, that's the peanuts. They're complementary.".
One day and a very good day it was there came a young man into his doctor's office where he was greeted with "hello!"s all around by the staff and led into the examining room itself where the nurse said "hello!" by way of preface to other business and then the doctor came in, "hello!" (the man answering all these salutations in kind) until then the nurse having already left the doctor said he must go and look at another patient saying as he left "goodbye!" but assuring him he would be back soon leaving the man alone in the room but nevertheless the man heard again in a new voice "goodbye!" though he could not tell from where, confusing him, perhaps he should leave now, and just as he decided he must have heard something from the hallway or the like there came again "goodbye!" unmistakably from within the room, so he got up and looked about for what might be its origin and there it was again, "goodbye!" seeming to come from a cabinet which he approached and was wondering should he open it (it being, after all, a doctor's cabinet, not his own, filled with who knows what) and hearing "goodbye!" now quite distinctly from within the cabinet he reached out towards the handle to open the door when in came the doctor and the man feeling quite sheepish explained what had happened "Oh!", said the doctor, "that's nothing to worry about, it's just this", opening the cabinet and taking out a jar labeled SALVE.
Entry B31 of the Sudelbücher runs, in its entirety,
Im Zuschauer wird gesagt: The whole man must move together, alles muß einen einzigen Endzweck im Menschen haben; written in the opening of notebook C, before any of the entries, is again the phrase (again in English)
The whole man must move together. I can't remember where anymore, but I somehow got the idea that the quotation was from Addison (I may have gotten that impression solely internally, from the fact that his is the name I mostly associate with the Spectator (incidentally it's extremely strange to me that Lichtenberg translates "Spectator" to "Zuschauer", but leaves the quotation in English)), and I just assumed that Lichtenberg had the quotation right. I am not alone in this, though admittedly not in a great crowd of folks either (some of those links are about Hofmannsthal, too, not Lichtenberg). But this, apparently, is what he was actually thinking of, from Spectator nr. 6, Wednesday, March 7, 1711:
I lay it down therefore for a Rule, That the whole Man is to move together; that every Action of any Importance is to have a Prospect of publick Good; and that the general Tendency of our indifferent Actions ought to be agreeable to the Dictates of Reason, of Religion, of good Breeding; without this, a Man, as I have before hinted, is hopping instead of walking, he is not in his entire and proper Motion.
And it's by Steele, not Addison (and stuffed into the mouth of one Sir ROGER, moreover).
Another post whose innermost being was forged in the conference mentioned in !-2: one of the readings suggested was Wolfgang Iser, the chapter
How Acts of Constitution are Stimulated from The Act of Reading and the eighth of that volume. I found the whole discussion of "blanks" as manifested or not in literary and nonliterary (can't recall the term he used for this, but it was a specific sort of nonliterary, explanatory or persuasive, I think) texts extremely odd, not least because it was quite obvious that making the blanks the hallmark of literary texts and interpretation leads swiftly to enshrining certain sorts of novels as succeeding better at just plain being novels than others (didactic novels, for instance, are barely novels). But! What I really wanted to say was that reading it and thinkin' thereon made me remember, as I occasionally do, "First Catch Your Puffin", from the 1995 Food number of Granta. I infer from the way the extract (with which the explanation for my dislike of the games of the sort the narrator discusses therein may lie) is introduced that it is in fact an autobiographical essay, but for quite a while I was really unsure. It's true that as a short story it would have lacked somewhat in point, but I don't see that that should disqualify it; after all, it could just have been a clever exhibition of a character. Or something. (Similarly, I recall wondering, around the time the reviews for Wieseltier's Kaddish came pouring in, what sort of reactions it would have gotten had his father not died—not, you understand, that Wieseltier would have put it forth that his father had died, but that it would be a work of fiction, not quite purest since I'm sure that it included elements à clef, but pure as to the grief, mourning, transformation of life, and actual saying of the Kaddish itself—whether the artistry would have been thought all the greater for Wieseltier's lack of direct acquaintance with the subject matter, I suppose. I can't now remember exactly what possible change in reception I was thinking of, but cut me some slack; that was nine (! And the Granta issue is twelve years old—I wasn't even in high school yet!) years ago.) The last time I was home I looked for the issue again, thinking my Advanced Skillz could discover the truth of the matter, but it was not to be found, my mother presumably having gotten rid of it.
That issue also, I see online, contained Georges Perec's "Attempt at an Inventory" (of everything he ate during a particular period, I think a whole year but perhaps only a month); that may have been my first encounter with anything Oulipian, since, although I did read A Void I can't remember when I actually got it, though I do have a hardback. I know I read about it when the NYT reviewed it (I recall the reviewer noting that it did not contain, among other things, any sex, or perhaps any "sex") but also think that I forgot about it for a while; perhaps it was, in fact, that very issue that prodded my memory. (I went to check my copy to see what printing it was, as that could at least establish an earliest point, but I can't locate it; I assume it's still in SoCal and has not, like Embers, The Wanderer, and, I fear, My Life in CIA, simply vanished.)
That issue also contained a story that I assume went on to be part of The Last King of Scotland and which contained two moments which, since I don't think I reread it more than once, and that not long after the first reading, have endured in memory a surprisingly long time: first, one character telling another, at a banquet, that in France he'd be called monsieur rosbif; second, Idi Amin announcing that he has tasted human flesh, pausing, and describing it as "salty". (This might have been in the service of a comparison to monkey meat, though I can't remember that far.) Also also, a story bearing some relation to John Lanchester's first novel, and the only one I've read, The Debt to Pleasure. Oh, 1995 Food issue of Granta, what a matrix of reading you were!
There was also a photograph of a naked anorexic woman standing upright in a bathtup, accompanying Jane Rogers' "Grateful".
I leave you with something totally unrelated, from the 2006 Christmas Cracker of Mr Norwich: an "epitaph quoted by Robert Byron in First Russia then Tibet."
Here lies buried one Captain Shilling
unfortunately slain by the insulting
Portugall; but that his bones want
sence and expression, they would tell
you the earth is not worthy of his recep-
tion, and that the people are blockish,
rude, treacherous and indomitable.
I find that a fine epitaph, and would find it much finer were "the people" revised to merely "people".
Just saw a performance of various pieces at the ODC theater, presented under the aegis of sfSound. Highlight: the eye (unblinking), by David Bithell, for a sextet augmented by computer-controlled lights, which mostly illumined each player only so long as he or she was playing, though there were occasions on which that wasn't the case, including, quite effectively, a section in which no one played anything at all, but the lights came on and off at intervals while the players looked around dartingly. It was a very effective use of silence, and stands, as a bit of experimentalism, in sharp contrast to Implied Violence, a horrendous theater troupe that performed before The Dead Science at 21 Grand on Friday. Not only was IV's piece extremely long, it was composed nearly entirely of played-out absurdist tics and generically avant-garde gestures. One part, which they saw fit to repeat at least four times, seemed basically to be Lucky's monologue made boring (and augmented by some idiocy that was, I suppose, intended to "comment" on class or the bourgeoisie (though the complaint seemed to come down to "how tacky they are, not like we sophisticates!") or something along those lines, because, well, you've got to have some of that, right?). In fact I would say that the reason it was so uninteresting and phenomenologically interminable was that it seemed to be intended to freak the squares, but there were no squares in the audience (I pay myself this compliment), nor could one reasonably have expected there to be squares in the audience, so the only thing it could do was display itself to the audience as something that would freak the audience's stereotype of a square, were any such squares to be present or, for that matter, exist. And even as an exercise in self-satisfied group identification it was trite. (There were other reasons I didn't like it but that's the chief one, methinks.) Anyway, David Bithell, the eye (unblinking), it's good. In fact everything at the concert was good except for Helmut Lachenmann's Serynade, which nevertheless drew extremely enthusiastic applause, as did Implied Violence. Go figure.
I just got back from the final session of this, all in all an interesting event, but one the reading for which involved an unfortunately large number of encouters with the phrase "suspension of disbelief". I would not mind never hearing that phrase again. Here is a situation in which I might be called on to suspend my disbelief: you are trying to convince me of something which I find implausible on its face, but, you assure me, your argument, though lengthy, will eventually come to a powerful conclusion. Thus, even though I find your first steps a little shaky, I engage in argumentative epoche to see where things are going. Here is another sort of situation: you are relating to me a story about what happened and I find one of the relata implausible. However, you're a trustworthy sort and have more information, so I suspend my inclination to disbelieve you (which has only just now been activated) pending an improvement in my own epistemic situation. I have never yet, however, picked up a novel, or even listened to a recounting in real life of events actual or imagined, and had to turn off my natural inclination to disbelieve what I am told, because I do not have such an inclination.
Then, from a back room, emerged what was known in the business as a Well Set-Up Young Man, likewise unclothed except for a dark blue line-infranty helment.You know the position, Karl,instructed Naunt. Karl without comment got on all fours and presented his—Dally couldn't help noticing—presentable bottom.Now Dahlia, if you'd just get behind him, gripping him by the hips in a rather firm, no-nonsense way—
You said she'd be wearing a dildo,Karl reminded him somewhat breathlessly.
What's going on, Arturo,Dally inquired,if you don't mind sharing your thoughts here?
Maternal tenderness,Naunt explained,is certainly one of the A.O.D.'s attributes, but hardly the only one. Anal assault, not unknown in the military imagination, is an equally valid expression of her power, and the submission she expects, as well as a source of comfort, indeed at times provides pleasure, to the obejct of her attentions.
Indeed (the children are part of Their Crusade, off to Jerusalem):
When I reached the top I saw the children. They were moving very slowly in the glimmering heat and in the dust that rose up from their going. Peasant boys and girls they were, between twenty and thirty of them, the oldest of them twelve or thirteen but most of them younger, all of them thin and ragged, carrying their pitiful little bundles and singing thinly as they walked in the dry and dusty road.
As I watched them I heard again that bony and brutish chuckle: not only Bruder Pförtner but a whole company of him, a bony mob of him came trotting past me throwing off their monks' robes and showing the tattered parchment of their skin stretched taut over their bones. All of them had great long bony members wagging erect before them so that it was difficult for them to run; all of them were giggling and chuckling as they stretched out their bony hands towards the children. When they reached the children they pushed them down on to their hands and knees in the dusty road, mounted them like dogs and coupled with them, grunting in their ardour, screaming in their orgasms. The children crept forward slowly on their hands and knees, singing as they were violated:
Christ Jesus mild,
Sweet Mary's child
That hung upon the tree,
Thy cross we bear,
Thy death we share,
To rise again with thee.
When the skeletons had sated their lust they fell away from the children and lay sighing and snoring in the road with limbs outflung. The children, their hands and knees bloody, stood up again and trudged on.
Of the rock that begot thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee.
Later the narrator points out to the leader of the crusaders their scrapes:
It's a rough road, he says.
(The first quotation is from Against the Day, obvs, p 897; the second two are from Pilgermann, pp 61 and 63.)
Huzzah! A trivial task accomplished! To wit: the discovery of the title of a piece by Boulez heard at a concert at the CSO in his honor (there was also a piece by Messiaen, though I can't remember which, and a gagaku ensemble played after the intermission, and in fact much more, though whatever else might have been performed has flown my mind). I recall thinking that it resembled Duke Ellington's "Ad Lib on Nippon" from the Far East Suite, and am surprised, though perhaps I should not be, to find that it has been recorded. The arrangement of different groups of players throughout the hall (they weren't merely dispersed across the stage, but were in among the audience, or where the audience would be if the concert had been better attended, in some cases—up in the mezzanine, on the main floor, all that jazz) had a much greater effect that one might have anticipated in advance, and even if the spatial dispersion could be recorded properly, it would take a pretty sophisticated sound system to reproduce it, I suspect.
The middle section of the B side of King Crimson's Three of a Perfect Pair, consisting of the songs "Industry", "Dig Me", and "No Warning", is fantastic, the first especially (though it has a lesser share than I remembered of the queasy, slightly disgusting guitar tone, which has always made me think of the shine of oil slicks on pavement, that dominates the latter two). All three have always seemed to me to be extremely evocative of grey, disused, deserted factories—industrial music for failed industries. (Not like the optimistic pounding of KMFDM.) I mention this because of this paragraph
"Smog" was published in 1958, a long time before the current preoccupation with man's systematic destruction of the environment. The narrator comes to a large city to take over a small magazine called Purification. The owner of the magazine, Commendatore Corda, is an important manufacturer who produces the sort of air pollution that his magazine would like to eliminate Corda has it both ways and his new editor settles in nicely. The prevailing image of the story is smog: gray dust covers everything; nothing is ever clean. The city is very like the valley of the Argentine ants but on a larger scale, for now a vast population is slowly strangling in the fumes of its industry, of the combustion engine.
I would like to read this story. In my fourth-year english class in high school we were required, towards the end, to write a four-page beginning to a notional longer work, something I resisted doing for a long time, eventually turning in a two-page description of a purposeless factory whose workings did nothing but fill up the entire town in which it is situated with toxic metallic grey dust, the result of its gears grinding against each other. This was deemed sufficient.
It seems the "done thing" to post about how one is participating in a game of Lexicon, specifically this one. I, alas, was not able to start on the very first turn of play, owing to moving-related program activities, but so much the better—for it seems that someone has cited a phantom article "Chance", which I have claimed for the greater glory of scholarship. For you see, contemplating the role of chance, in particular the role of the concept of chance, in the universe of this game, I have struck upon what is without a doubt the actual correct account of, as the official statement of topic has it,
the rise of Targhandism and its relationship to the fall of the Uzdumalian Empire. I know it. I have it right. And my eyes will be damned before I let any of those jumped-up scribblers pass off their lies and obscurantism as cold clear truth.
I have also noticed that Lexical games tend towards the fantastic, which is understandable given their origins. But I think it would be interesting to have a game of Lexicon which stripped out the element of familiarity with fantastic tropes (in particular names, I find the naming part simply terribly difficult) and made it into a contest of pure bullshitting ability. The official topic could be something like "grain". Articles could be written on, say, atavism in grain, agricultural oddities of grain, bread,, etc, with the proviso that everything be simultaneously ex recto and written with at least apparent concern for consistency across articles. (The main thing to worry about in this sort of thing would be wanton silliness, which is generally much harder to get right than people think.)
An odd sequence of comments left on a Youtube video of Louis Armstrong and Johnny Cash:
The last two were left by the same person.
When it was published I believe that Alan Lightman's (good name for a physicist, no?) Einstein's Dreams drew praise, though I thought it was more than a bit overdone—gauzy little prop-plane flights of fancy on the model of Invisible Cities, itself a book that would be more than doubly improved by being half as long—in fact I don't think I bothered to finish it. I do, however, think it would be interesting to have sketches like those in the book inspired by Peter Lorre's line from spy parody Beat the Devil:
Time! Time! What is time? The Swiss manufacture it. The French hoard it. Italians want it. Americans say it is money. Hindus say it does not exist. Do you know what I say? I say time is a crook.
Given the disagreement with which my proposal that pork is an autumnal meat met, I suppose I have no cause to expect a better reception for what I'm about to claim: nevertheless it is true. Campari, in its "and X" incarnations (and soda, and tonic, and orange or grapefruit juice, and bitter lemon, etc; I would include here the Americano, even though it is not strictly an "and"), is simply not to be drunk after sundown—and not at all in the winter.
Let's think together for a minute. Let's think about the phrase "most eligible". To make matters easier, let's think about it in the longer phrase "most eligible bachelor". Now—clearly—every bachelor is eligible; that's what being a bachelor is (Quine be damned). So what might make a bachelor most eligible? Eligibility is, of course, the ability to be chosen ("eligible" and "elect" both coming from eligo, to pick or choose). The most choosable bachelor, then. Who might that be? Not, surely, some handsome, charming millionaire, since choice aims at success, and many will want to choose such a person, and the choosing of a bachelor is a zero-sum affair. The most eligible bachelor is, accordingly, the bachelor least worthy of being chosen. But eligibility is itself a factor of determining worthiness of choice: thus "most eligible" is an inherently unstable category.
A reasonably commodious vicus of link-clicking has brought me to Kieran Setiya's blog, which at one point quotes Steven Wright:
But as Steven Wright remarked, you can't have everything – where would you put it?. The comment is, of course, founded on a confusion—you could leave it where it was.
It's rather hard to believe that it isn't the case, but careful auditing reveals that it isn't. The mother's chorus in "The Mariner's Revenge Song", which in fact begins thus:
Find him, find him
Tie him to a pole and break
His fingers to splinters
really, really ought to run as follows:
Find him, bind him
Tie him to a pole and break
His fingers to flinders
Esse aut non esse: quaeritur. siue sagittae fundaeque flagitiosi fati pati siue arma in mare mali inferre aduersandoque illa finire in animo nobilior est. Mori, dormire, etc.
I had to stop because I couldn't figure out what to do with "and by a sleep" and what follows, not to mention "ay, there's the rub"—"eheu!"? The real point of the above exercise is to get "fati pati" on the table.