(including a first short homage to Juan Jose Saer)
This entry did not begin with what now comes first but instead began with “Five” and then went on to… but I had intended and now begin as I really wanted to begin: erasure, ERASURE, erasing…
The new Review of Contemporary Fiction is given over to what remained of Melville’s MOBY DICK after an English publisher sent out into the world a stripped down “reader friendly” version, free of much of what Damion Searls and many other readers actually like about MOBY DICK. The English editors, for instance, removed the dedication to Hawthorn and the whole section, “ Etymology,” supplied as you remember by the Usher .
It is true that the rather famous “Call me Ishmael “ is not included in this version of what remains… but he ends the book on a blank page where we read EPILOGUE. Searls’ version includes every bit of punctuation, every word that had been discarded by the English editor... a new book has been created.
Of course, some readers might have been reminded of Ronald Johnson discovering (1977) inside PARADISE LOST a new poem that Johnson entitled RADIOS which of course is embodied in the title PARADISE LOST…
The poem begins and I can’t reproduce the typography:
Into the World
Rose out of Chaos:
And then in 1980, Tom Phillips found a new book (the first of a number of subsequent versions) within a long dead Victorian novel and the resulting A HUMUMENT A Treated Victorian Novel was created by combining found words and phrases from the original with drawings and patterns of colour: the first page reads
Side I shall lie,
Bones my bones
A book. A book
How far we have come.
No longer is erasing a burden as it was with typewriters and then if there was a carbon copy…
Probably we could tease out the ease of erasure today when compare to back then…
I wish I could fall into a project as did Walter Benjamin when he discovered his ARCADES PROJECT… I always feel uncomfortable mentioning Benjamin because of his disgusting Stalinist politics that allowed him to travel and work in Moscow for a time… of course some of his best work is free of those politics but it is still fed by the bad faith that allowed him to make this accommodation… but it was with his idea of quoting that I am taken by…
"One could structure a narration in terms of a single juxtaposition of memories… The New narration made up of pure memories would have neither beginning nor end. It would be circular narration and the narrator’s position would be like that of the child mounted on the horse of the merry-go-round who at each turn tries to grab the ring. One needs luck, skill and a constant repositioning, all of which does ot guarantee that one will not end up empty-handed." by Juan Jose Saer. Quoted in LITTORAL OF THE LETTER Saer’s Art of Narration by Gabriel Riera.
Juan Jose Saer is the author of many books and essays. Four novels are available in English: THE INVESTOGATION, NOBODY NOTHING NEVER, THE EVENT and THE WITNESS which as a wonderful scene of cannibalism: "Two of the Indians armed with with knives and rudimentary but efficient axes, were already at work on one of the decapitated bodies, slicing it open from the lower abdomen to the throat. No doubt alerted by my look of amazement the Indian who was in the process of the beheading of the bodies stopped what he was doing for a moment and giving me a delightfully frank and friendly smile, waved the hand wielding the knife… The torsos and legs had been cut up to make handling and cooking easier; the arms , however, had been left whole...As well as dense columns of smoke that dispersed only gradually in the air, the meat gave off a powerful but agreeable smell. As the cooking proceeded, the human origins of the meat became less apparent…"
I had first heard of Saer from Alain Robbe-Grillet. Saer had been influenced by Robbe-Grillet and one hopes that more of his books will be translated. His interest in form calls into question everything he writes but in no way is the reader beaten into the earth by his work. His work is a genuine advance beyond Cortazar and Onetti…
Out in America I discovered that horror books are read in great numbers. I guess I have always known this and one can not escape Stephen King though his popularity has fallen precipitously among undergraduates in the various City University campuses that I frequent… sadly, James Patterson has replaced him… I saw in the big second handbook shops in Nashville and Crossville, Tennessee bookcase after bookcase of horror books… so while at first I was skeptical of the Library of America’s AMERICA’S FANTASTIC TALES edited in two volumes by Peter Straub… I realized that just by the range of authors… starting of course from Poe… who was for a long time better known in France because of Baudelaire’s interest in him…on through Melville, Hawthorne…Ralph Adams Cram, Lafacadio Hearn, Henry James…H, P. Lovecraft…
What is interesting about these selections is that the narration is usually anything but straight forward or nailed to the realistic… the shape is what one is interested in…
The second volume takes the reader into the present when the narration becomes a little more conventional and ordinary but… I liked seeing that T. E. D. Klein has a story in the collection… Klein is a much under-rated writer, editor of Twilight Magazine for many years but for too long he has not written…
The Library of America deserves much praise for this venture into the popular but the continued slighting of Sherwood Anderson is a genuine scandal which I hope they will address… but the names of the older writers: F. Marion Crawford Gertrude Atherton, Robert W. Chambers are of course still on the shelves in second hand bookshops though threaten of disappearing under the tidal wave of broken-spined paperbacks… because it seems people no longer pick up even to browse old hardcover books…
...the memory of an event is not sufficient proof that it really happened. (Juan Jose Saer)
THE FRAGILITY OF GOODNESS is a book by Tzvetan Todorov on how Bulgaria avoided sending its Jews to be murdered during World War Two. I thought of that as I am reading Anton Weiss Wendt’s MURDER WITHOUT HATRED Estonians and the Holocaust in which it seems that Estonians with little reluctance did the Nazi’s dirty work for them and killed all the Jews and gypsies in Estonia and even then pitched in when the German murder machine was running at over-capacity in Poland by efficiently processing “shipments “ from Germany, Czechoslovakia and France… To be scrupulous Jews in the parts of Greece occupied by Bulgaria were sent to be murdered but all the Jews from within Bulgaria itself were saved by an actual and real Bulgarian resolve not to give their Jews to be murdered while within Estonia there was no organized, in any sense of that word, to the murder of the Jews… a handful of Jews did escape being murdered because of the extraordinary heroism of a very few individual Estonians. More typical is a passage at random from Wendt’s book reads, “Hans Laats recalled one such case when up to ten children between three and fifteen years of age were murdered. According to Laats, Koppel shot the youngest of the children while holding them by the leg.”