from The Complete Peter Leroy (so far)

Something Like Clam Chowder: An Introduction

By Mark Dorset


n this space, reader, I had intended to provide a thoroughgoing discussion of the origin and development of the work that has become The Complete Peter Leroy (so far), a brief explanation of the work, a short chronicle of its history, an outline or map of its parts, and some suggested sequences in which to read it, but the conspiracy of work and time, which has so often robbed me of the opportunity to do what I wish to do by filling my life with things that I must do, or am obliged to do, or have been made to believe that I ought to do, did it to me again, and so here I am, using this space not to say a few prefatory words of thanks to those who made it possible for me to present you, reader, with a work of my own, but to introduce to you the work of someone else, in this case Eric Kraft, who wrote the first version of the material that follows, "What I'm Up To," many years ago, when he first found it necessary to explain what he was up to. This is, by my estimate, the twenty-second revision. I will rejoin you on the other side of "What I'm Up To," in an afterword.

[In the Voyager version, "What I'm Up To," by Eric Kraft, follows here. You will find my version of it in these pages, as "What the Author Is Up To." It has been through many more revisions since I wrote the preceding passage. -- M. D.]

Afterword: On HyperFiction

uring the first ten years or so of Eric Kraft's work on what eventually became The Complete Peter Leroy (so far), years when he was struggling to find a form for the work, it never occurred to him that perhaps he was asking the medium he was using to do something more than it could comfortably do. He accommodated his material -- and his thinking -- to the medium available to him: the printed book. However, it is probably obvious to anyone who reads The Personal History, Adventures, Eperiences & Observations of Peter Leroy that the story stretches across all the books, that the mind of Peter Leroy contains all of his story, and that the work keeps trying to -- or threatening to -- burst through the boundaries. 
The heart of the electronic version is the books that already exist. They are a given, and their form as narratives is a given, which means that reading them is a page-turning, linear experience, but experiencing the total work, the whole universe of Peter Leroy, has its nonlinear aspects. There are hypertextual elements built into the books, links that take the reader from one book to another at various points, implanted allusions that link the books in many ways and at many points. In the electronic version of the work, the allusions that connect the books are highlighted, at the reader's option, with "click-me" markers, but the electronic version goes beyond simply "activating" what is already there. It supplements but does not supplant the books, adding a new layer to the work, with a new "front door" and "back door." 
The front door leads into the expanding universe of Peter Leroy, and the back door leads back in. The front door ought to have been, and would have been, if I had had time to develop it properly, a kind of hyperpreface. It would have been a short essay by me, in which I offered a brief explanation of the work and a chronicle of its history. The back door, which I have provided, though it is not as fully developed and exhaustive as I wished it to be, is "A Topical Guide to the Complete Peter Leroy," a topical hyperguide or annotated hyperindex, intended primarily for the re-reader, but also useful to the kind of reader who likes to do things backwards. Here a number of topics or themes from Peter's world and work are listed as entries, with explanations, expansions, and annotations, again written by me.
Let me explain that I'm not a newcomer to all of this. I've been around for a while. I am a character in the work, an interested party. (You can check the preface and chapters 18-20 of Herb 'n' Lorna for an introduction, but I also pop up here and there throughout the work.) For many years, for as long as Peter has been working on the reconstruction of his life, I've wanted to write something that I usually refer to as The Topical Autobiography of Mark Dorset. This would be -- perhaps I should say "would have been" -- an autobiography organized not chronologically but encyclopedically, with entries for people, places, experiences, themes, ideas, and emotions that I considered important in my life. A few years ago, I began to realize that I would never get around to writing that, in part because Peter had beaten me to the punch, stolen my thunder. That's when I began thinking about writing "A Topical Guide to the Complete Peter Leroy" instead. 
Perhaps you're thinking to yourself that I may not be the most reliable guide to Peter's work, since I have an agenda of my own -- the promotion of an interpretation of my own that may or may not match yours. (In this respect, I have many literary antecedents; Charles Kinbote, in Pale Fire, is one.) I am, I confess -- I declare -- an analytical type. You might find it handy to think of me as residing in the left side of Eric Kraft's brain, while Peter resides in the right. However, I bring to this party some special insights, I think -- an insider's insights -- and I have some stories of my own to tell that make interesting glosses to Peter's, so you will find elements of my own life story -- details of my life with the Glynn twins, and so on -- that creep into my comments here and there. 
I don't want to seem immodest, but the new layer that my material adds to the work is one that Peter could not have provided himself -- at least not alone. My layer seems to be the outside layer, although it's written by a character within Peter's story. I offer you alternative ways to read the existing work. I will, as you read that work, dismantle it, reconstruct it, annotate it, "explain" it, and illuminate it through references to other works. I am Peter's medium (and Kraft's) for saying things about the work that can't be said in Peter's voice (or Kraft's). 
If, as you read Peter's work, you like to think of yourself as standing beside him, spending your days with him and Albertine in that old hotel, then you may choose to think of me as Peter's dummy, but if, instead, you find as you read that you imagine yourself standing by my side, then you may think of Peter as I do, as my ventriloquist. 


The Complete Peter Leroy (so far) is no longer available from Voyager, alas.

FRENCH PUBLICATION RIGHTS to LITTLE Follies. It is currently published in English by Picador USA and in Spanish (Pequeñas locuras) by Ediciones Destino, and in 1997 it will be published in Italian (Piccole Folie) by Giunti, but the French rights (and the German, Japanese, Norwegian, . . .) are still available. One or more of these could be yours. Make an offer. No reasonable offer will be refused. Contact the author directly.

AUDIO TAPE of Eric Kraft reading selections from LITTLE Follies and more. For details, visit the unclassifieds

Copyright © 1994 by Eric Kraft

This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogues, settings, and businesses portrayed in it are products of the author's imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

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