The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy
A Topical Guide to the Complete Peter Leroy (so far) It is comforting, when one feels a bit "lost," to be able to put one's feet up, close one's eyes, and look back, as it were, along the road that one followed from wherever one once was to wherever one may be now, to "retrace one's steps," and find, along that roadside, familiar milestones. It is certainly comforting for me; for if I am feeling a bit "lost," when I begin such a backward ramble, I am often lost during it as well, wandering on someone else's road, or backing out of a cul-de-sac, and it is always a great relief to come upon one of these milestones, or, if you prefer, landmarks.
-- Peter Leroy, "My Mother Takes a Tumble

have in mind two sorts of cross reference -- one concerned with words and the other with things. . . .
-- Denis Diderot, Encyclopedia


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 resembleleftovers, 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. 

See also:


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. A. 

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." 
     Harry Levin
     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.
     Wallace Stevens
     "Mrs. Alfred Uruguay"

Barber, Matthew

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. 

Reservations Recommended: He's vice-president for new product development at Manning & Rafter Toys

Beaker, Dudley

Next-door neighbor of Peter's maternal grandparents, Herb and Lorna Piper.

    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. "My Mother Takes a Tumble"

Beath, Bertram W.

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. 

Black 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 it." 

See also:
H&L 762 the differences between Black Jacques Leroy and Fat Hank Leroy
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 Leroy
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 them 
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 

Clam Chowder

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 the books): 

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 
Reservations Recommended, page 520: something like bouillabaisse -- with shellfish, saffron, all that good stuff 
LITTLE Follies, 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 without guts? 

See also: 
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. 
Reservations 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. 
LITTLE Follies, 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 
LITTLE Follies, page 240: it has always seemed to me that life, in several respects at any rate, is . . . like clam chowder 
LITTLE Follies, 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 chowder.
Making My Self . . . and Dinner: A Good Chowder Is a Big Chowder (So Make Extra, Just in Case)
Classified Advertising: Best Clam Chowder Recipe

Clam, Happy as a

Alan Wachtel: 

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 says: 
"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. 
Mark Dorset:
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, page 283) 


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 H. Bowen)

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.

See also:

Dorset Diagram

Alan Wachtel contributes this commentary: 

The Dorset 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. . . . 
"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 . . ." 
"Struther" (a pseudonym for Mrs. Joyce Maxtone Graham, nee Anstruther--in other words, "J. Anstruther") wrote: 
"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, none." 
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.) . . . 

Alan Wachtel 

Dorset, Mark

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 Plain Emptyheaded
How Come You Do the Things You Do? (A Study of Motivation)
Wit, Grace, and Style: Recognizing the Best of Human Endeavor from Its Artifacts
Another Day, Another Dollar (my study of the doggedness of the working classes) 
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 Order" 
"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 for Action" 


Celeste Olalquiaga:
   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.  

Celeste Olalquiaga
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 Author

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) and Peas

    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

Foote, Eliza

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 natural course. 


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 beauty." 
         Friedrich Schlegel, Aphorisms from the Lyceum
         (1797, translated by Ernst Behler and Roman Struc)
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

Kraft, Eric

Eric Kraft is the author of a large (and growing) work of fiction called The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy, which Newsweek called "The literary equivalent of Fred Astaire dancing: great art that looks like fun." It consists, so far, of seven novels: Herb 'n' Lorna, Reservations Recommended, LITTLE Follies, Where Do You Stop?, What a Piece of Work I Am,  At Home with the Glynns, and Leaving Small’s Hotel; and an interactive hypertext, or "hyperfiction," to use his word for it: The Complete Peter Leroy (so far)

Kraft grew up in Babylon, New York, graduated from Harvard College, and holds a master's degree in teaching from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He has taught school and written textbooks, and he was for a time co-owner and co-captain of a clam boat, which sank. He has been the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, was for a time chairman of PEN New England, and has been awarded the John Dos Passos Prize for Literature. He is the father of two sons, Scott and Alexis, and lives with his wife, Madeline, in New York. E-mail will reach him at or

A Modest Proposal from Cyril Connolly

“I should like to see the custom introduced of readers who are pleased with a book sending the author some small cash token: anything between half-a-crown and a hundred pounds.  Authors would then receive what their publishers give them as a flat rate and their 'tips' from grateful readers in addition, in the same way that waiters receive a wage from their employers and also get what the customer leaves on the plate.  Not more than a few hundred pounds—that would be bad for my character—not less than half-a-crown—that would do no good to yours.”

You can toss a little something Kraft's way through the Honor System.

Leroy, Ella Piper

Peter's mother, daughter of Herb and Lorna Piper.

Leroy, Peter

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 life." 
         Anatole Broyard
         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 the bottom 

See also: 
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 of life? 
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) 

Lodkochnikov, Ariane

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 . . . 

Lodkochnikov, Rodney

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 of time
Glynns: (My art is made of recollection, and revision, and wishful thinking.) 

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.

See also:
Memory, Faulty 

Proust, Marcel

"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 masterpiece."
-- A. J. Liebling, Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris (courtesy of Jane Ciabattari) 

Reader, the
    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." 
         Friedrich Schlegel
         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 revision
Glynns: (My art is made of recollection, and revision, 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. 
See also:
Writing, below 

    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 hystericus.
         Milan Kundera, Immortality

Shandy (Tristram and Others)

Alan Wachtel contributes this commentary: 

In the preface to At Home with the Glynns, Peter Leroy laments that: 

    My 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 Tristram's.) 
    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.
         Robert Musil
         The Man Without Qualities
         (translated by Eithne Wilkins and Ernst Kaiser)
Thomas Mann:
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 of It?"
See also: 
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.
Eugene Ionesco, Fragments of a Journal
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 
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 space. 
(Topical Guide to CPL(sf), pp. 116 and 117) 
Wishful Thinking

Glynns: (My art is made of recollection, and revision, and wishful thinking.) 


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 being bored. 

See also: 
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) 

World, Another

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 creative mind. -- MD

    "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). 
         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, in
         Vladimir Nabokov's Invitation to a Beheading 

[Numbers in the references below refer to pages in The Complete Peter Leroy (so far).] 

WDYS 5: in another world

See also:
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 design
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 other." 
         "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 aren't allowed." 
              Andre Gide, Les Caves du Vatican (Lafacdio's Adventures)
Revision, above
Intro to CPL(sf): the twenty-second revision
VLF 001: This was not writing -- not yet 
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 

See also: 
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 Lager label 
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 Kraft

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).