The Passionate Spectator: the
Lesson of Crab Cakes: 'Neath the crust of a promise ofttimes lies a
truth that's hard to swallow
Immortal Hilarity: I want to make it clear that although they
they are deliberately made to resemble leftovers and are not actually
left over from anything.
Herb 'n' Lorna: Chacallit today is, in outward appearance,
remarkably like the town in which Lorna grew up . . . with the result that,
when I visited, I found that I could easily imagine life in Chacallit as
it must have been in the early part of this century, when Lorna was a girl.
Glynns: (My art
is made of
recollection, and revision,
and wishful thinking.)
A fictional town on the south shore of Long Island, New York, U. S.
The scene [of ridiculous comedy, comedy that ridicules, as
differentiated from ludicrous comedy] might normally be neutralized by
being set in some distant country or operatic never-never-land. "As for
the action . . . ," Alfred Jarry announced at the beginning of Ubu Roi,
"the place is Poland, that is to say Nowhere."
Playboys and Killjoys: An Essay on the
Theory and Practice of Comedy
The villages slept as the capable man went down,
Time swished on the village clocks and dreams were alive,
The enormous gongs gave edges to their sounds,
As the rider, no chevalere and poorly dressed,
Impatient of the bells and midnight forms,
Rode over the picket rocks, rode down the road,
And, capable, created in his mind,
Eventual victor, out of the martyrs' bones,
The ultimate elegance: the imagined land.
"Mrs. Alfred Uruguay"
A fictional character in Reservations
Recommended. By day, Matthew is an executive at a toy company,
but at night he becomes B. W. Beath, free-range
Reservations Recommended: He's
vice-president for new product development at Manning & Rafter Toys
Next-door neighbor of Peter's maternal grandparents, Herb and Lorna
When I was a child on No Bridge Road, living with my parents in my
grandparents' house, Mr. Beaker lived next door, alone. I knew very little
about him, and as far as I can recall I never set foot inside his house.
He visited my grandparents from time to time, and he always stayed just
a little too long. He worked for the Babbington Clam Council, writing advertisements.
Mother Takes a Tumble"
A pseudonym used by Matthew Barber, a fictional character, in Reservations
Recommended. By day, Matthew is an executive at a toy company,
but at night he becomes B. W. Beath, free-range critic. "Bertram W. Beath"
is an anagram of "Matthew Barber."
Reservations Recommended: He
signs his reviews B. W. Beath, a short version of Bertram W. Beath,
an anagram of his own name, Matthew Barber.
Jacques and Fat Hank
They represent the nonconformist and the conformist, I think -- the
one following his own mind and heart, pursuing his dreams, determined to
achieve the goal that he has set for himself, focused to the point of obsession;
the other chasing the acclaim of the crowd, popular success, the mass market,
turning in the winds of fashion like a dead thing on a stick. -- MD
"What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think.
This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve
for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder
because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty
better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world's
opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man
is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence
of solitude. . . . But do your thing, and I shall know you. Do your work,
and you shall reinforce yourself."
Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance"
"What the Author Is Up To": an obsession
RR 397 you want to be happy, and if you must be deceived to be happy,
you are willing to participate in your own deception
RR 366 "It was a stupid idea. Childish. I should never have suggested
H&L 762 the differences between Black Jacques Leroy and Fat Hank
RR 112 They thought of themselves as bohemian, beat, hip, and they
were seriously committed to improving the quality of public education.
They may even have been passionately committed. All of that seems like
a joke to Matthew now. The memory of it makes him feel naive and foolish.
LF 133 two of my ancestors, Black Jacques Leroy and his son Fat Hank
LF 155 Among beer drinkers, it is sometimes said of Black Jacques that
"He invented beer."
LF 155 the legendary Leroy Lager,
a sturdy and honest drink, relative only by name to the insipid brew later
marketed by his son, John Henry ("Fat Hank")
LF 214 I wasn't sure then just what it meant to be like Black Jacques
or like Fat Hank, and I'm still not sure, because they have turned out
to be more complicated than either my great-grandmother or my father presented
WDYS 120 Porky had begun working on the character question well before
he even had a restaurant, and I was an eager assistant in the effort. He
got it into his head that the way to give the place character was to come
up with a character who supposedly owned it. I suggested my great-great-grandfather,
Black Jacques Leroy
From my annotations in The Topical Guide
to The Complete Peter Leroy (so far)
(the page references are to that version of Peter Leroy's work, not to
Peter uses this (overuses, I think) as an almost universal metaphor
for complexity. Many others would do just as well.
Introduction, page 3: a bowl of soup
Introduction, page 23: that big book about myself, that book as rich
and various as a good clam chowder
Introduction, page 38: Like most things, this process can be compared
to the making of a good clam chowder
Introduction, page 42: Basically, then, there are two kinds of stuff
in chowder: chunky bits and the broth that links them, that makes them
components of a chowder and not just a bowl of chunky bits
Recommended, page 520: something like bouillabaisse -- with shellfish,
saffron, all that good stuff
page 723: In the manner of a chowder . . . the emotion that we call love
is a bewildering and varied concoction
MMS(aD): Did you ever taste a chowder
Herb 'n' Lorna,
page 346: If we are concocting an American social dish, this is where it's
cooking, and it's something like a hearty stew or chowder, with chewy bits
in every spoonful, not all of them familiar.
Recommended, page 196: Forgive us, Father, but we were brought
up in N*w Y*rk, raised on the clam chowder known hereabouts as M*nh*tt*n.
Our first impression of what Bostonians consider the real goods, chowderwise,
was that it must be a tonic for ulcer victims.
page 188: everyday chowder is nothing to sneer at, and there are many occasions
when it is just the thing - cold, blustery, rainy days, for instance
page 240: it has always seemed to me that life, in several respects at
any rate, is . . . like clam chowder
page 942: I still keep trying to write that big book about myself, that
book as rich and various as a good clam chowder, loaded with useful and
interesting information, hilarious anecdotes, recherch´e allusions,
philosophical speculations, intriguing stories, clever word play, important
themes, striking symbols, creative sex, intricate diagrams, mouth-watering
recipes, big ideas --
In addition, see:
What a Piece of Work I Am: She taught me . . . how very many
things can be explained in terms of clam
Making My Self . . . and Dinner: A
Good Chowder Is a Big Chowder (So Make Extra, Just in Case)
Classified Advertising: Best
Clam Chowder Recipe
Have you ever heard the origin of the expression "happy as a clam,"
or wondered why a clam should be thought notably happy? Like "speak of
the devil," it's a truncation of a longer expression. In his commonplace
book, Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, published in 1972, Louis Kronenberger
"I wish I had made up a word that had entered the language; the most
I can claim is to have dredged up a metaphor that was subsequently decapitated.
It was a metaphor I found listed somewhere and had never seen in print,
whereupon I used it several times in a magazine with a large circulation
-- 'happy as a clam at high tide.' Thereafter I began to see it in print
and to hear it in speech in the truncated form 'happy as a clam.' Thus
what gave it point it had been robbed of: 'happy as a clam' is neither
good sense nor good nonsense."
John Ciardi in A Second Browser's Dictionary (1983) does not cite
Kronenberger but attributes the full expression "happy as a clam at high
tide" to colonial times, and explains that "the water then was too high
for clamming. It is simple enough to suppose that the happiest one can
make a clam is by leaving it alone." He goes on:
"As a random inquiry into the nature of idiom, I have asked hundreds
of people what they supposed could make a clam happy. Very few, in fact
almost none, knew of the earlier and lengthier form, yet all understood
the clipped form accurately [as meaning very happy]."
I think there are some lessons here about both clams and people.
Here is a misunderstanding of what makes a clam happy, from
Edouard Manet, writing to Zacharie Astruc, during the summer of 1879, when
he was spending time at a hydrotherapy spa in the Parisian suburb of Bellevue,
undergoing treatment for syphilis:
"As you say so well, time is a great healer. Consequently, I'm counting
heavily on it, living like a clam in the sun when there is any, and as
much as possible in the open air; but even so, the country has charms only
for those who are not obliged to stay there."
(quoted by Otto Friedrich in Olympia: Paris in the Age of Manet,
Glynns: Thanks to the god of happy
accidents, it seems that every September there is a moonlit
night when I do happen to see sweet autumn clematis growing on a
wall, and so every year the memories return to me
I have in mind two sorts of cross reference -- one concerned with words
and the other with things. Cross references to things clarify the subject;
they indicate its close connections with other subjects that touch it directly
as well as its more remote connections with still other matters that might
otherwise be thought irrelevant; and they suggest common elements and analogous
principles. They also put added stress on elements of internal consistency
within groups of facts, they elaborate upon the connections that each special
branch of knowledge has with its parent tree, and they give to the whole
Encyclopedia that unity so favorable to the establishment of truth and
to its propagation. Moreover, whenever the occasion demands, they will
also lend themselves to a contrasting purpose -- they will confront one
theory with a contrary one, they will show how some principles conflict
with others, they will attack, undermine and secretly overthrow certain
ridiculous opinions which no one would dare to oppose openly. When the
author is impartial, they will always have the double function of confirming
and of confuting, of disturbing and of reconciling. . . . If these cross
references, which now confirm and now refute, are carried out artistically
according to a plan carefully conceived in advance, they will give the
Encyclopedia what every good dictionary ought to have -- the power to change
men's common way of thinking. Finally there is a kind of cross reference
-- it can refer either to words or to things -- which I would like to call
satirical or epigrammatic. . . . I should not like altogether to do without
this kind of reference; it is often very useful. . . . It frequently affords
a delicate and amusing way to pay back an insult without even seeming to
put oneself on the defensive, and it offers an excellent means of snatching
off the masks from the faces of certain grave personages.
-- Denis Diderot, Encyclopedia
(the prospectus or defense, translated by Jacques Barzun and Ralph
The Passionate Spectator (epigraph): The
spectator is a prince who everywhere rejoices in his incognito.
Reservations Recommended: The
assumed identity, the disguise, is part of the pleasure.
Alan Wachtel contributes this commentary:
Diagram . . . was eerily prefigured by a passage in Mrs. Miniver,
a best-selling World War II-era novel by Jan Struther that was later made
into a hugely successful motion picture. . . . The passage was reprinted
by Clifton Fadiman in The Mathematical Magpie, one of two anthologies
of stories, essays, rhymes, and assorted fragments based on mathematical
themes that he edited.
" Dorset " wrote:
"[T]he Venn diagram that depicts the product of the multiplication
(in the logical sense) of two classes can be used to depict the product
of that complex operation . . . that we call love . . . The linking image
is particularly nice, I think, because the diagram resembles two linked
rings. . . .
"Struther" (a pseudonym for Mrs. Joyce Maxtone Graham, nee Anstruther--in
other words, "J. Anstruther") wrote:
"Over the years some lovers' circles become so overlapped that only
the thinnest crescents of lunes remain at the outer edges . . . they fill
the lens of love so full, . . . become so completely a couple that they
belong together in [a] strong way . . ."
"She saw every relationship as a pair of intersecting circles.
It would seem at first glance that the more they overlapped the better
the relationship; but this is not so. Beyond a certain point the law of
diminishing returns sets in, and there are not enough private resources
left on either side to enrich the life that is shared. Probably perfection
is reached when the area of the two outer crescents, added together, is
exactly equal to that of the leaf-shaped piece in the middle. On paper
there must be some neat mathematical formula for arriving at this; in life,
It seems that certain mathematicians took this literary challenge literally,
and Fadiman follows it with an excerpt from "Ingenious Mathematical Problems
and Methods," by L. A. Graham, who had evidently posed the problem in a
mathematics journal. Graham gives a solution by William W. Johnson of Cleveland
for the general case of unequal circles. The analysis isn't difficult,
but the resulting transcendental equation is messy and can't be solved
exactly. When the circles are of equal size, the equation is much simpler,
but it still can be solved only approximately. Here "transcendental" doesn't
mean the school of Emerson and Thoreau; like "natural," "irrational," and
"imaginary," it's a technical term used by mathematicians to refer to certain
types of numbers. Graham and Johnson, however, can't resist remarking on
the analogy between social and mathematical problems of transcendent difficulty.
(And if I understand Struther's reply on being shown the solution, the
mathematical journal was called the Dial, which was also the name of Emerson's
periodical.) . . .
I am a fictional character, an unaffiliated sociologist with a special
interest in the history and dynamics of interpersonal behavior. I am the
husband in every sense but the legal one of both of the Glynn twins, Margot
and Martha, and together we have two daughters, Martha and Margot (each
of the twins named her daughter for her sister). I am the editor and annotator
of The Complete Peter Leroy (so far)
and the compiler of this glossary. For years, I have been intending to
write a confessional memoir in encyclopedic form; if I ever get around
to writing it, I will call it The Topical Autobiography of Mark Dorset.
Among my publications are the following:
Something Like Clam Chowder:
An Introduction to the Complete Peter Leroy (so far)
"You Keep Singing About Champagne, But I See You're Serving Beer"
"There's One Born Every Minute, and I'm My Own Grandpa: Auto-Gullibility"
"Fuck You, Asshole: The Death of Civility in Everyday Discourse"
I See by Your Outfit that You Are a Cowboy: How We Look the Part
I Know I'm Right (Correct Me If I'm Wrong): a Study of the Acceptance
and Dissemination of Notions that Are Wrongheaded, Boneheaded, and Just
How Come You Do the Things You Do? (A Study of Motivation)
Wit, Grace, and Style: Recognizing the Best of Human Endeavor from
Another Day, Another Dollar (my study of the doggedness of the
Hats in Fiction
"Mine Eyes Have Seen the Eyes of My Beholder"
"From the Bottom of the Deck: A Technique for Getting Your Notes in
"They Often Call Me Speedo: A Look at the Way We Name Names"
"What Do You Want to Be If You Grow Up?" (in Children at Risk)
"The Dorset Diagram and How to Use It,"
(reprinted in Sociology Made Visible)
"The Door Was Open, So I Let Myself In: 'Natural' Curiosity as a Motive
Dust is what connects the dreams of yesteryear with the
touch of nowadays. It is the aftermath of the collapse of illusions, a
powdery cloud that rises abruptly and then begins falling on things, gently
covering their bright, polished surfaces. Dust is like a soft carpet of
snow that gradually coats the city, quieting its noise until we feel like
we are inside a snow globe, the urban exterior transmuted into a magical
interior where all time is suspended and space contained. Dust makes the
outside inside by calling attention to the surface of things, a surface
formerly deemed untouchable or simply ignored as a conduit to what was
considered real: that essence which supposedly lies inside people and things,
waiting to be discovered. Dust turns things inside out by exposing their
bodies as more than mere shells or carriers, for only after dust settles
on an object do we begin to long for its lost splendor, realizing how much
of this forgotten object's beauty lay in the more external, concrete aspect
of its existence, rather than in its hidden, attributed meaning.
Dust brings a little of the world into the enclosed
quarters of objects. Belonging to the outside, the exterior, the street,
dust constantly creeps into the sacred arena of private spaces as a reminder
that there are no impermeable boundaries between life and death. It is
a transparent veil that seduces with the promise of what lies behind it,
which is never as good as the titillating offer. Dust makes palpable the
elusive passing of time, the infinite pulverized particles that constitute
its volatile matter catching their prey in a surprise embrace whose clingy
hands, like an invisible net, leave no other mark than a delicate sheen
of faint glitter. As it sticks to our fingertips, dust propels a vague
state of retrospection, carrying us on its supple wings. A messenger of
death, dust is the signature of lost time.
The Artificial Kingdom: A Treasury of the Kitsch Experience, with
Remarkable Objects of Art and Nature, Extraordinary Events, Eccentric Biography,
and Original Theory, plus Many Wonderful Illustrations Selected by the
Alan Wachtel writes:
Bear with me while I set this up by briefly reviewing fractal theory.
Most of the exposition comes from Complexification, by John L. Casti,
and The Beauty of Fractals, by H.-O. Peitgen and P. H. Richter.
Consider the sequence of complex numbers z(i
+ 1) = z(i)**2 + c, n = 0, 1, 2, . . ., c = constant. In general, z can
either converge to a fixed point, diverge to infinity, or execute some
more or less complicated bounded trajectory around an attractor. The set
of c for which the sequence beginning at z(0) = 0 does not diverge to infinity
is the Mandelbrot set M. M is connected, but its boundary in the complex
plane is fractal; values of c in various lobes of M correspond to particular
kinds of trajectories. The interior of M is conventionally shown in black,
and values of c outside M are colored to indicate how rapidly the corresponding
sequences escape to infinity.
Now, instead of fixing z(0) and letting c
vary, fix c and let z(0) vary. If c is in M, then, by definition, the sequence
beginning at z(0) = 0 does not diverge. Sequences that begin in a certain
region around 0 likewise do not diverge. This region is called the Julia
set of c, and its complement is called the Fatou set. The Julia set, in
general, is multi-lobed, and its boundary is fractal and self-similar.
If c lies outside M, however, the sequence
beginning at 0 diverges, and sequences beginning at most other complex
values also diverge. The Julia set, which contains the exceptions, then
dissolves into a Cantor set, or, with further variation of c, into a cloud
of uncountably many disconnected points called Fatou dust.
"Dust," then, seems to be a technical term
meaning a bounded set of uncountably many disconnected points. Further
examples are given by the two-dimensional analogues of the triadic Cantor
set, known in the triangular case as the Sierpinski gasket and in the square
one as the Sierpinski carpet. (I think it's especially fitting for a carpet
to be composed of dust. I've had a few like that.)
At Home with the Glynns: For quite a while during the writing
of the book, I thought that I would call it War (Life, Love, Dust)
As in describing nature it is presented with a double face, either
of mirth or sadness, our modern writers find themselves at a loss which
chiefly to copy from; and now it is debated, whether the exhibition of
human distress is likely to afford the mind more entertainment than that
of human absurdity? Comedy is defined by Aristotle to be a picture of the
frailities of the lower part of mankind, to distinguish it from tragedy,
which is an exhibition of the misfortunes of the great. . . .The principal
question therefore is, whether in describing low or middle life, an exhibition
of its follies be not preferable to a detail of its calamaties?
Oliver Goldsmith, in Westminster Magazine,
January 1, 1773
Dead Air: for
a while, when I was about twelve, I thought that I could build a tape recorder.
. . . If this seems preposterous to you, you probably have a good grip
on reality and are not related to me
Little Follies: Mr. Beaker had thrown his desk lamp through
the window that night because he was alone and hated it; so
I created Eliza Foote, arranged a meeting, and let events take their
The Passionate Spectator: I suffer from a disease, a kind of
mental illness, the
groundless hope that springs eternal.
An emotional or linguistic carapace.
"Philosophy is the true home of irony, which might be defined as logical
Friedrich Schlegel, Aphorisms from the
(1797, translated by Ernst Behler and
Reservations Recommended: He
spent a whole childhood moping because he didn't have the defensive shield
of a sense of humor.
"What is kitsch? . . . kitsch affirms itself as something that peels
life off of language. Layer by layer, it strips language bare. The more
abstract kitsch becomes, the more it becomes kitsch.
Robert Musil, "Black Magic," in Posthumous
Papers of a Living Author
Peter's mother, daughter of Herb and Lorna Piper.
Imagine, please, an island, a small one, not in some pellucid subtropical
sea, but in a gray bay, shallow, often cold, Small's Island, in Bolotomy
Bay, and on the island imagine an old hotel, Small's
Hotel, where a middle-aged dreamer, Peter Leroy, lives with his beautiful
wife, Albertine Gaudet.
Albertine runs the hotel, and Peter spends much of each day sitting
in a room on the second floor, writing the
Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy,
his life story.
If you could look over his shoulder and watch him at work,
you would be likely to find that he was rewriting an episode from his past,
altering it, embellishing it with entertainments, distractions, romance,
and history, making of his life a story that it never was, because when
he reminisces he finds that he's as interested in the possibilities as
he is in the facts, and also because memory, like
an old radio receiver, picks up a lot of static.
"If we look at life from all sides, observing how in everything that
concerns us the extraordinary, the great, and the beautiful play the leading
part, we shall soon realize the purpose of our creation. This is why, by
some sort of natural instinct, we admire, not, surely, the small streams,
beautifully clear though they may be, and useful too, but the Nile, the
Danube, the Rhine . . . . In all such circumstances, I would say only this,
that men hold cheap what is useful and necessary, and always reserve their
admiration for what is out of the ordinary."
Longinus or Dionysius
On the Sublime
(translated by T. S. Dorsch)
"'The familiar man makes the hero artificial,' Wallace Stevens said.
In the commonplaceness of their narratives, some of these talkers anticipated
the direction that American fiction would eventually take -- away from
the heroic, the larger than life, toward the ordinary, the smaller than
Kafka Was the Rage
". . . not one novelist in a thousand ever does
tell us the real story of their hero. . . . It is the petty details, not
in the great results, that the interest of existence lies."
Jerome K. Jerome
"On Getting on in the World"
in Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow
Intro to CPL(sf): 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
MMS(aD): I sipped life
from the top of the bowl, and I tried to ignore the dark gritty bits at
H&L 45 the principles that underlie the life they make for themselves
H&L 557 "Some of them seem to have the expectation - the hope,
I should say - that they will turn a corner one day and find that everything
is new, all is changed, yet others seem to hope for just the opposite,
that things to come will somehow be just as they've been before, that life
will stop in a way, freeze, like a snapshot."
RR 93 The entire dream episode has made him very happy. It has made
him feel that he is potentially a party to a more exotic life than the
one he's currently leading.
RR 194 Sometimes, when a bit of undigested mutton awakens us at night,
we lie in the dark, musing. You know the sort of thing. What is the point
LF 121 "Remember this scene," he said. "Here we see Peter's life, in
miniature: this pursuing now one notion (or kitten), now another, this
inability to concentrate entirely on one thing (or kitten) for fear that
the others will get away, though really he might just as well pursue any
one of them as all of them, for the kittens, as you and I can see at a
glance, are so like one another as to be indistinguishable, each just a
variation on the theme 'Black Kitten.' "
LF 240 It has often seemed to us that life, in several respects at
any rate, is much like a river. LF 321 Life is like the whole water cycle.
WDYS 54 the entry hall had been laid with terrazzo, the flooring material
most like life. To make a terrazzo floor, chips of marble are scattered
in a soup of cement, like notable moments scattered through a life
WDYS 296 There will always be some uncertainty. That's life.
(Topical Guide to CPL(sf), pp. 76-79)
The sultry older sister of Peter Leroy's imaginary friend, Rodney
("Raskol") Lodkochnikov. She seems to me to be a combination of the
Unattainable Ideal and the Bad Girl. She is out of Peter's reach even though
she is a figment of his imagination. -- MD
WDYS 350 the hat he'd made
LF 263 Her name was Ariane. She lurked in the shadows like a dream.
WDYS 13 "Ariane's Hip"
WDYS 46 the sultry Ariane
What a Piece of Work I Am: When
I was a boy I was in love with Ariane . . .
Peter Leroy's imaginary friend, known as Raskolnikov, Raskol for short.
What a Piece of Work I Am: My
best friend was my imaginary friend. . .
Glynns: the sadness I find implicit in any memory,
a yearning for my younger self and the fresh flavors of his new sensations
. . . a kind of mourning for the distinctions that die with the passage
Glynns: (My art is made of recollection,
and revision, and wishful
Where Do You Stop?: An extremely vivid pictorial memory
lit up my mind's eye like the final starburst at the end of the annual
Clam Fest fireworks display.
"In the light of what Proust wrote with so mild a stimulus [as a madeleine],
it is the world's loss that he did not have a heartier appetite. On a dozen
Gardiner's Island oysters, a bowl of clam chowder,
a peck of steamers, some bay scallops, three sautéed soft-shelled
crabs, a few ears of fresh-picked corn, a thin swordfish steak of generous
area, a pair of lobsters, and a Long Island duck, he might have written
-- A. J. Liebling, Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris (courtesy of
Addressing the reader directly is an example of the rhetorical device
known as polyptoton, a variation of person, in this case personal
address. As Longinus (or Dionysius) put it, in On the Sublime (as
translated by T. S. Dorsch) "Herodotus does [this]: 'From the city of Elephantine
you will sail upwards, until you come to a level plain; and after you have
crossed this tract, you will board again another ship and sail for two
days, and then you will come to a great city whose name is Meroe.' You
see, my friend, how, as he takes you in imagination through the places
in question, he transforms hearing into sight. All such passages, by their
direct personal form of address, bring the hearer right into the middle
of the action being described. When you seem to be addressing, not the
whole audience, but a single member of it . . . you will affect him more
profoundly, and make him more attentive and full of active interest, if
you rouse him by these appeals to him personally." (M. D., Introduction
to CPL(sf), p. 52)
"The analytical writer observes the reader as he is; accordingly, he
makes his calculation, sets his machine to make the appropriate effect
on him. The synthetic writer constructs and creates his own reader; he
does not imagine him as resting and dead, but as lively and advancing toward
him. He makes that which he had invented gradually take shape before the
reader's eyes, or he tempts him to do the inventing for himself. He does
not want to make a particular effect on him, but rather enters into a solemn
relationship of innermost symphilosophy or sympoetry."
Aphorisms from the Lyceum, 1797
(translated by Ernst Behler and Roman Struc)
"Friedrich Schlegel called the creative principle poetry (Poesie).
This term is used in the Prologue with various connotations. Considering
the word more closely, we reach the conclusion that it has three different
meanings; that is, that it is applied on three levels. First of all, the
word poetry has a restricted literary meaning: poetic literature
in verse or prose. Second, it appears to be a certain faculty of the human
mind belonging to man's very essence, like reason
or imagination. Third, poetry is presented as a cosmic principle comparable
to the world-soul that animates the whole universe. All together the term
is expanded to the point where it assumes cosmic implications."
Ernst Behler and Roman Struc
Intro to CPL(sf): In 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)
Intro to CPL(sf): the twenty-second
Glynns: (My art is made of recollection,
and wishful thinking.)
NOTE: One of the inspirations for the diversity of The Complete
Peter Leroy (so far) surely must have been a book called Oysters
and All About Them, by John R. Philpott. I came upon this book, once
upon a time, in the Marlborough, Massachusetts, library, and I wish I had
stolen it when I had the chance. The edition I found was the third or fourth,
I think. The first edition was a rather slim book, and at the end of it
Philpott apologized for falling so far short of the "all about them" promise,
but he invited readers to help him along the road to fulfilling it by sending
him what they could about oysters. When he issued the second edition, he
wrapped it around the first, the way an oyster would add another layer
of nacre in making a pearl. The edition I had found was four layers deep.
There was the preface to the fourth edition, then stuff added since the
third edition, and then you went into the third edition itself (which contained
a preface to the third edition, then stuff added since the second . . .
and so on) and then when you emerged from all the older editions, you were
back in the fourth edition, with letters from readers about the third edition,
written in response to the appeal that Philpott had included at the end
of the third edition, and finally Philpott's fourth appeal for assistance
from the readers.
Homo sentimentalis cannot be defined as a man with feelings
(for we all have feelings), but as a man who has raised feelings to a category
of value. As soon as feelings are seen as a value, everyone wants to feel;
and because we all like to pride ourselves on our values, we have a tendency
to show off our feelings. . . . It is part of the definition of feeling
that it is born in us without our will, often against our will. As soon
as we want to feel (decide to feel . . .), feeling is no
longer feeling but an imitation of feeling, a show of feeling. This is
commonly called hysteria. ThatÕs why homo sentimentalis (a
person who has raised feeling to a value) is in reality identical to homo
Milan Kundera, Immortality
Alan Wachtel contributes this commentary:
In the preface to At Home with the Glynns, Peter Leroy laments
account of my life is unfolding at a slower pace than my life itself.
When I first began my personal history, I imagined that at some point I
would bring the story of my past up to my life in the present, and a day
would come--namely, my sixtieth birthday, as I had it planned--when I wouldn't
be writing reminiscences anymore. My story would have brought Albertine
and me to Small's Hotel, and I would shift to a running account of life
here, writing something closer to a journal than a history, an easier task
for my later years. I expected that I would stop telling my story, for
the most part, and instead tell the stories of people who stayed at Small's,
combined with meditations on the relationship between life in an old hotel
and the plumbing in an old hotel. I even thought that I would finally get
around to writing that big book about clams, and so on. Now, however, after
having put years into the effort, I can see that it isn't likely to happen
that way. I now think that in my doddering years I will still be--in the
clam bed of my mind, where my imagination lies with my memory and sires
countless offspring--a bumbling youth.
Peter's frustration recalls the predicament of Tristram Shandy, whose eponymous
story Eric Kraft, at least, seems to have read, because he alludes to it
in Where Do You Stop? by having Peter and Porky White invent the
Captain's Shandy. (And Tristram's Uncle Toby is formally known as Captain
Tobias Shandy.) Tristram writes, in Book IV, Chapter 13:
I am this month one whole year older than I was this time twelve-month,
and having got, as you perceive, almost into the middle of my fourth volume--and
no farther than to my first day's life--'tis demonstrative that I have
three hundred and sixty-four days more life to write just now, than when
I first set out; so that instead of advancing, as a common writer, in my
work with what I have been doing at it--on the contrary, I am just thrown
so many volumes back--was every day of my life to be as busy a day as this--And
why not?--and the transactions and opinions of it to take up as much description--And
for what reason should they be cut short? as at this rate I should just
live 364 times faster than I should write--It must follow, an' please your
worships, that the more I write, the more I shall have to write--and consequently,
the more your worships will have to read.
Bertrand Russell pointed out, in Principles of Mathematics (published
in 1903), that this is true only if Tristram's life is finite. "Now I maintain,"
Russell says, "that if he had lived for ever, and not wearied of his task,
then, even if his life had continued as eventfully as it began, no part
of his biography would have remained unwritten."
Russell calls this the Tristram Shandy paradox.
At first sight, of course, immortality doesn't seem to help matters: on
the contrary, it only provides an opportunity to fall infinitely far behind
(an outcome that most of us can probably identify with). But in fact, for
every day of Tristram's life, as Russell shows at great length and degree
of abstraction, a year would eventually come in which he could record it.
The same, naturally, would be true for Peter.
Likewise, we can map discrete days or other periods
of Tristram's (or Peter's) infinitely extended life to discrete words,
sentences, paragraphs, pages, or books that record them, by direct one-to-one
correspondence. If, on the other hand, we consider time as being continuous,
we can still map the days of their lives one-to-one to the years of their
writing by a simple projective technique. (Peter's mapping is actually
a good deal more complicated, and certainly not one-to-one. But so was
The difficulty comes when we try to map continuous
time to the discrete words, pages, and so on of a book. If time corresponds
to the uncountable elements of the real line (cardinality aleph-one), and
words and so on to the countable set of integers (cardinality aleph-null),
then infinitely many instants must inevitably be lost, no matter how detailed
the infinite record. Everything we can preserve composes only a set of
measure zero in the non-denumerable infinity of experience.
The right thing and the time it takes are connected by a mysterious
force, just like a piece of sculpture and the space it fills.
The Man Without Qualities
(translated by Eithne Wilkins and Ernst
There is, after all, something peculiar about the process of
habituating oneself in a new place, the often laborious fitting in and
getting used, which one undertakes for its own sake, and of set purpose
to break it off as soon as it is complete, or not long thereafter, and
to return to one’s former state. It is an interval, an interlude,
inserted, with the object of recreation, into the tenor of life’s main
concerns; its purpose the relief of the organism, which is perpetually
busy at its task of self-renewal, and which was in danger, almost in process,
of being vitiated, slowed down, relaxed, by the bald unjointed monotony
of its daily course. But what then is the cause of this relaxation,
this slowing-down that takes place when one does the same thing for too
long at a time? It is not so much physical or mental fatigue or exhaustion,
for if that were the case, then complete rest would be the best restorative.
It is rather something psychical; it means that the perception of time
tends, through periods of unbroken uniformity, to fall away; the perception
of time, so closely bound up with the consciousness of life that the one
may not be weakened without the other suffering a sensible impairment.
Many false conceptions are held concerning the nature of tedium.
In general it is thought that the interestingness and novelty of the time-content
are what “make the time pass”; that is to say, shorten it; whereas monotony
and emptiness check and restrain its flow. This is only true with
reservations. Vacuity, monotony, have, indeed, the property of lingering
out the moment and the hour and of making them tiresome. But they
are capable of contracting and dissipating the larger, the very large time-units,
to the point of reducing them to nothing at all. And conversely,
a full and interesting content can put wings to the hours and the day;
yet it will lend to the general passage of time a weightiness, a breadth
and solidity which cause the eventful years to flow far more slowly than
those poor, bare, empty ones over which the wind passes and they are gone.
Thus what we call tedium is rather an abnormal shortening of the time consequent
upon monotony. Great spaces of time passed in unbroken uniformity
tend to shrink together in a way to make the heart stop beating for fear;
when one day is like all the others, then they are all like one; complete
uniformity would make the longest life seem short, and as though it had
stolen away from us unawares. Habituation is a falling asleep or
fatiguing of the sense of time; which explains why young years pass slowly,
while later life flings itself faster and faster upon its course.
We are aware that the intercalation of periods of change and novelty is
the only means by which we can refresh our sense of time, strengthen, retard,
and rejuvenate it, and therewith renew our perception of life itself.
Such is the purpose of our changes of air and scene, of all our sojourns
at cures and bathing resorts; it is the secret of the healing power of
change and incident.
The Magic Mountain
(translated by H. T. Lowe-Porter)
Intro to CPL(sf): 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
"I don't like Time, and I never have, and I want to have as little
to do with it as possible. If I am bothered much more by it, I shall take
all the hands off all the watches and clocks in my house and just drift
along, playing the mandolin and humming.
Robert Benchley, "What Time Is It? And What
H&L 178 When he had time to kill, he often killed it, as he always
had, by tinkering.
H&L 252 He was suddenly struck by the fact that a great deal of
time had passed during which ordinary things like buying a new suit hadn't
even crossed his mind, and by the idea that his suit and the new awareness
he had of his suit, marked two points -- the moment when he'd chosen the
suit and the moment just passed when he'd been reminded of that moment
-- between which lay a huge bubble of time
LF 448 Most children do not have a good sense of the amount of work
required to build a radio from scratch or of the amount of time required
to do it or -- for that matter -- of the passage of time itself.
When did I first notice that time “passed”? The sense
of time was not at first associated with the idea of death. Of course,
when I was four or five years old I realized that I should grow older and
older and that I should die. At about seven or eight, I said to myself
that my mother would die some day and the thought terrified me. However,
I thought of it as a decisive interruption of the present, for everything
was in the present. A day, an hour, seemed to me long, limitless;
I could see no end to it. When they talked to me about next year
I had the feeling that next year would never come.
LF 453 my sense of the passing of time had developed to a point where,
although it may not have been as acute as my sense of sight, it was at
least as sharp as my sense of smell
Eugene Ionesco, Fragments of a Journal
LF 486 The picture grows more distorted as time passes, at least in
the sense that it departs more and more from the original outline.
WDYS 117 That stretch of time seemed elastic. I envisioned it as a
rubber road, twisting and flexing sickeningly, extending into vague, dark
(Topical Guide to CPL(sf), pp. 116 and 117)
Glynns: (My art is made of recollection,
and revision, and wishful
Rampion in Aldous Huxley’s Point Counter Point:
Your work’s just a nasty, dirty job, made unfortunately necessary
by the folly of your ancestors. They piled up a mountain of garbage
and you’ve got to go on digging it away, for fear it might stink you to
death, dig for dear life, while cursing the memory of the maniacs who made
all the dirty work for you to do. But don’t try to cheer yourself
up by pretending the nasty mechanical job is a noble one. It isn’t;
and the only result of saying and believing that it is will be to lower
your humanity to the level of the dirty work. If you believe in business
as service and the sanctity of labor, you’ll merely turn yourself into
a mechanical idiot for twenty-four hours out of the twenty-four.
Admit that it’s dirty, hold your nose, and do it for eight hours, and then
concentrate on being a real human being in your leisure. A real complete
human being. Not a newspaper reader, not a jazzer, not a radio fan.
The industrialists who purvey standardized ready-made amusements to the
masses are doing their best to make you as much of a mechanical imbecile
in your leisure as in your hours of work. But don’t let them.
|Labour is blossoming or dancing where
The body is not bruised to pleasure soul,
Nor beauty born out of its own despair
Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.
O chestnut tree, great rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?
William Butler Yeats "Among School Children"
Intro to CPL(sf): 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
Intro 6 whatever I was working on
LF 434 whistling with the carefree pleasure of this simple task
LF 455 hours of baffling precision work
LF 1027 disguising work I wanted to do as work I had to do
LF 1040 Getting one's mind off one's work
LF 1050 practicing a mystery in the manner of medieval guildsmen
H&L 68 to do difficult work
MMS(aD): Accumulating those details was the
occupation of my adolescence. It gave my life meaning and kept me from
H&L 281 "Why, Uncle Luther," said Lorna, "You know very well that
John's work was never the equal of mine."
LF 13 the haphazard, sweaty, lusty, and fundamentally richer life of
the unfrosted sometimes-working class
WDYS 191 "I'll bet you're wondering if you could train a chicken yourself,"
he said. "Well, of course you could! It's not easy, don't let anybody tell
you that. But it's not impossible. Don't let anybody tell you that, either.
You remember what the great Dr. Johnson said about the dangers of overestimating
or underestimating a task and how a little work, steadily applied, will
eventually achieve its goal."
(M. D. -- Topical Guide to CPL(sf), pp. 159-161)
I have personally never been one to wish that I lived in another world.
I am very much of this world, and a student of it, and I find that
it offers more than enough to occupy the mind. The habit of drifting from
this world into "another" is, however, regarded by many as a mark of the
"What do I hear? But the world of details, who has never dreamt of
that other world, what of that world? I have believed in it ever since
I was fifteen. I was concerned with it then, and this memory lives within
me, as an obsession never to be abandoned. . . . That other world is the
most important of all that I flatter myself I have discovered: when I think
of it, my heart aches." (these words are attributed to Bonaparte in the
introduction to Saint-Hilaire's Notions synthétiques et historiques
de philosophie naturelle).
[Numbers in the references below refer to pages in The Complete Peter
Leroy (so far).]
Michel Foucault, "Docile Bodies"
in Practices and Knowledge
It seemed to him . . . however rounded and various his life might present
itself to him as being, that what had had quite a different and lasting
influence on him was something that had then seemed to be among all things
the most unreal: namely that romantically expectant state of mind which
had whispered to him that he should belong not only to the bright and bustling
world, but also to another world, one that hung suspended within it like
a holding of the breath.
Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities
It exists, my dream world, it must exist, since surely there must be
an original of the clumsy copy. Dreamy, round and blue, it turns slowly
toward me. It is as if you are lying supine, with eyes closed, on an overcast
day, and suddenly the gloom stirs under your eyelids, and slowly becomes
first a langorous smile, then a warm feeling of contentment, and you know
that the sun has come out from behind the clouds. With just such a feeling
my world begins: the misty air gradually clears, and it is suffused with
such radiant, tremulous kindness, and my soul expanses so freely in its
native realm -- . . . there time takes shape according to one's pleasure,
like a figured rug whose folds can be gathered in such a way that two designs
will meetÑand the rug is once again smoothed out, and you live on,
or else superimpose the next image on the last, endlessly, endlessly, with
the leisurely concentration of a woman selecting a belt to go with her
dress -- now she glides in my direction, rhythmically butting the velvet
with her knees, comprehending everything and comprehensible to me.
Cincinnatus, trying to write in his cell,
Vladimir Nabokov's Invitation to a Beheading
WDYS 5: in
H&L 25 the belief among younger men that everything had
been changed by the war, that nothing was the same, that nothing prewar
had much of a role in the postwar world, that the world had broken forever
with its past
H&L 470 Her heart went out once again to this wonderful
man, this saintly man, who put so much effort into building a crazy world
for his crazy wife, a world that seemed to have magic in it, a world where
doors were hidden in bookcases and drawers lifted their contents when they
were opened, a world with nonsense built into it so that his wife would
feel at home in it, a world with unlikelinesses to match her irrationality,
a world where she could feel sane.
RR 547 I'm not suited to this world, this time, this culture
LF 232 I used to think that this stream came from another world.
LF 870 his father was embarrassed by his being, as Larry's mother
so often said, "in another world" when he was concentrating on a gimcrack
WDYS 57 "Peter," he said. "Wake up. Snap out of it. You've been
in another world. You know that?"
Julius drew himself up.
"I don't write for the sake of amusement,"
he answered nobly. "The joy that I feel in writing is superior to any that
I might find in living. Moreover, the one is not incompatible with the
"So they say," replied Lafacdio. Then abruptly
raising his voice, which he had dropped as though inadvertently: "Do you
know what it is I dislike about writing? -- All the scratchings out and
touchings up that are necessary."
"Do you think there are no corrections in
life too?" asked Julius, beginning to prick up his ears.
"You misunderstand me. In life one corrects
oneself -- one improves oneself -- so people say; but one can't correct
what one does. It's the power of revising that makes writing such a colorless
affair -- such a . . ." (He left his sentence unfinished.) "Yes! That's
what seems to me so fine about life. It's like frescoe-painting -- erasures
Caves du Vatican (Lafacdio's Adventures)
Intro to CPL(sf): the twenty-second
VLF 001: This was not writing -- not
LF 971 You'll be our Scribe
LF 1002 He didn't want me to write Larry Peters stories or even to
think about writing Larry Peters stories
WDYS 328 The idea that had seemed so bright
WDYS 360 content, secure
WDYS 000: any
attempt to express a thought involves some change, some irrevocable
interference with the essential idea, and this interference becomes all
the stronger as one tries to express oneself more clearly
H&L 001: FOR
YEARS, I tried to avoid writing this book.
LF 002: I
began writing "My Mother Takes a Tumble" not with the aim of commemorating
that event but to find a woman for Mr. Beaker.
LF 19 writing letters, as "Mary Strong," to lonely men who from time
to time could be persuaded to send the unfortunate Miss Strong some money
LF 150 after a few bottles anybody with a regret, a pang, a fear --
any weepy drunk -- could write a poem suitable for the once-proud Leroy
LF 825 All you have to do is write your name and address on a piece
of paper, along with your name for the school.
(Topical Guide to CPL(sf), p. 164)
Copyright © 1996, 1997 Eric
A Topical Guide to the Complete Peter Leroy (so far) 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.
All rights reserved. No part of this guide may be reproduced or transmitted
in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying,
recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without
permission in writing from the author.
Portions of A Topical Guide to the Complete Peter Leroy (so far)
were first published by Voyager, Inc., as part of The Complete Peter
Leroy (so far).