Excerpts from Dickens

December 31, 2008

posted by Caroline Picard

You can go to this site to listen to an audio play version of Dickens, featuring excerpts from The Pickwick Papers and A Christmas Carol on WRNi, Rhode Island’s National Public Radio.

or you can continue reading…

Hard Times (1854)

From Book 1, Chapter 5: “The Keynote”

(which I found here.)

Coketown, to which Messrs. Bounderby and Gradgrind now walked, was a triumph of fact; it had no greater taint of fancy in it than Mrs. Gradgrind herself. Let us strike the key-note, Coketown, before pursuing our tune.

It was a town of red brick, or of brick that would have been red if the smoke and ashes had allowed it; but as matters stood, it was a town of unnatural red and black like the painted face of a savage. It was a town of machinery and tall chimneys, out of which interminable serpents of smoke trailed themselves for ever and ever, and never got uncoiled. It had a black canal in it, and a river that ran purple with ill-smelling dye, and vast piles of building full of windows where there was a rattling and a trembling all day long, and where the piston of the steam-engine worked monotonously up and down, like the head of an elephant in a state of melancholy madness. It contained several large streets all very like one another, and many small streets still more like one another, inhabited by people equally like one another, who all went in and out at the same hours, with the same sound upon the same pavements, to do the same work, and to whom every day was the same as yesterday and to-morrow, and every year the counterpart of the last and the next.

These attributes of Coketown were in the main inseparable from the work by which it was sustained; against them were to be set off comforts of life which found their way all over the world, and elegancies of life which made, we will not ask how much of the fine lady, who could scarcely bear to hear the place mentioned. The rest of its features were voluntary, and they were these.

You saw nothing in Coketown but what was severely workful. If the members of a religious persuasion built a chapel there — as the members of eighteen religious persuasions had done — they made it a pious warehouse of red brick, with sometimes (but this is only in highly ornamental examples) a bell in a birdcage on the top of it. The solitary exception was the New Church; a stuccoed edifice with a square steeple over the door, terminating in four short pinnacles like florid wooden legs. All the public inscriptions in the town were painted alike, in severe characters of black and white. The jail might have been the infirmary, the infirmary might have been the jail, the town-hall might have been either, or both, or anything else, for anything that appeared to the contrary in the graces of their construction. Fact, fact, fact, everywhere in the material aspect of the town; fact, fact, fact, everywhere in the immaterial. The M’Choakumchild school was all fact, and the school of design was all fact, and the relations between master and man were all fact, and everything was fact between the lying-in hospital and the cemetery, and what you couldn’t state in figures, or show to be purchaseable in the cheapest market and saleable in the dearest, was not, and never should be, world without end, Amen.

A town so sacred to fact, and so triumphant in its assertion, of course got on well? Why no, not quite well. No? Dear me!

No. Coketown did not come out of its own furnaces, in all respects like gold that had stood the fire. First, the perplexing mystery of the place was, Who belonged to the eighteen denominations? Because, whoever did, the labouring people did not. It was very strange to walk through the streets on a Sunday morning, and note how few of them the barbarous jangling of bells that was driving the sick and nervous mad, called away from their own quarter, from their own close rooms, from the corners of their own streets, where they lounged listlessly, gazing at all the church and chapel going, as at a thing with which they had no manner of concern. Nor was it merely the stranger who noticed this, because there was a native organization in Coketown itself, whose members were to be heard of in the House of Commons every session, indignantly petitioning for acts of parliament that should make these people religious by main force. Then came the Teetotal Society, who complained that these same people would get drunk, and showed in tabular statements that they did get drunk, and proved at tea parties that no inducement, human or Divine (except a medal), would induce them to forego their custom of getting drunk. Then came the chemist and druggist, with other tabular statements, showing that when they didn’t get drunk, they took opium. Then came the experienced chaplain of the jail, with more tabular statements, outdoing all the previous tabular statements, and showing that the same people would resort to low haunts, hidden from the public eye, where they heard low singing and saw low dancing, and mayhap joined in it; and where A. B., aged twenty-four next birthday, and committed for eighteen months’ solitary, had himself said (not that he had ever shown himself particularly worthy of belief) his ruin began, as he was perfectly sure and confident that otherwise he would have been a tip-top moral specimen. Then came Mr. Gradgrind and Mr. Bounderby, the two gentlemen at this present moment walking through Coketown, and both eminently practical, who could, on occasion, furnish more tabular statements derived from their own personal experience, and illustrated by cases they had known and seen, from which it clearly appeared — in short, it was the only clear thing in the case — that these same people were a bad lot altogether, gentlemen; that do what you would for them they were never thankful for it, gentlemen; that they were restless, gentlemen; that they never knew what they wanted; that they lived upon the best, and bought fresh butter; and insisted on Mocha coffee, and rejected all but prime parts of meat, and yet were eternally dissatisfied and unmanageable. In short, it was the moral of the old nursery fable:

There was an old woman, and what do you think?

She lived upon nothing but victuals and drink;

Victuals and drink were the whole of her diet,

And yet this old woman would NEVER be quiet.

Is it possible, I wonder, that there was any analogy between the case of the Coketown population and the case of the little Gradgrinds? Surely, none of us in our sober senses and acquainted with figures, are to be told at this time of day, that one of the foremost elements in the existence of the Coketown working-people had been for scores of years, deliberately set at nought? That there was any Fancy in them demanding to be brought into healthy existence instead of struggling on in convulsions? That exactly in the ratio as they worked long and monotonously, the craving grew within them for some physical relief — some relaxation, encouraging good humour and good spirits, and giving them a vent — some recognized holiday, though it were but for an honest dance to a stirring band of music — some occasional light pie in which even M’Choakumchild had no finger — which craving must and would be satisfied aright, or must and would inevitably go wrong, until the laws of the Creation were repealed?

and lastly, for the sake of waning holidays, there is this….(which I found here.)

Excerpt from A Christmas Carol

MARLEY was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and he were partners for I don’t know how many years. Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend and sole mourner. And even Scrooge was not so dreadfully cut up by the sad event, but that he was an excellent man of business on the very day of the funeral, and solemnised it with an undoubted bargain.

The mention of Marley’s funeral brings me back to the point I started from. There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. If we were not perfectly convinced that Hamlet’s Father died before the play began, there would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon his own ramparts, than there would be in any other middle-aged gentleman rashly turning out after dark in a breezy spot–say Saint Paul’s Churchyard for instance–literally to astonish his son’s weak mind.

Scrooge never painted out Old Marley’s name. There it stood, years afterwards, above the warehouse door: Scrooge and Marley. The firm was known as Scrooge and Marley. Sometimes people new to the business called Scrooge Scrooge, and sometimes Marley, but he answered to both names: it was all the same to him.

Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.

External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, nor wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn’t know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often ‘came down’ handsomely, and Scrooge never did.

Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, with gladsome looks, ‘My dear Scrooge, how are you? when will you come to see me?’ No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him what it was ‘oclock, no man or woman ever once in all his life inquired the way to such and such a place, of Scrooge. Even the blindmen’s dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said, ‘no eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!’

But what did Scrooge care? It was the very thing he liked. To edge his way along the crowded paths of life, warning all human sympathy to keep its distance, was what the knowing ones call ‘nuts’ to Scrooge.

Once upon a time–of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve–old Scrooge sat busy in his counting-house. It was cold, bleak, biting weather: foggy withal: and he could hear the people in the court outside, go wheezing up and down, beating their hands upon their breasts, and stamping their feet upon the pavement-stones to warm them. The city clocks had only just gone three, but it was quite dark already: it had not been light all day: and candles were flaring in the windows of the neighbouring offices, like ruddy smears upon the palpable brown air. The fog came pouring in at every chink and keyhole, and was so dense without, that although the court was of the narrowest, the houses opposite were mere phantoms. To see the dingy cloud come drooping down, obscuring everything, one might have thought that Nature lived hard by, and was brewing on a large scale.

The door of Scrooge’s counting-house was open that he might keep his eye upon his clerk, who in a dismal little cell beyond, a sort of tank, was copying letters. Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk’s fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal. But he couldn’t replenish it, for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room; and so surely as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would be necessary for them to part. Wherefore the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the candle; in which effort, not being a man of a strong imagination, he failed.

Regarding Charles Dickens

December 31, 2008

posted by Caroline Picard

“It is the complex nature of Dickens’s evil men, not their merited fate, that makes them the peers of Dostoyevsky’s lost souls. For this reason, I have always been irked by the critical treatment of his last novel as a pure whodunit. ”Endings” were not his strong suit.” (Angus Wilson in The New York Times, March 1, 1981)

images

Regarding Charles Dickens

English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens’s works are characterized by attacks on social evils, injustice, and hypocrisy. He had also experienced in his youth oppression, when he was forced to end school in early teens and work in a factory. Dickens’s good, bad, and comic characters, such as the cruel miser Scrooge, the aspiring novelist David Copperfield, or the trusting and innocent Mr. Pickwick, have fascinated generations of readers.

“In the little world in which children have their existence, whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt, as injustice.” (from Great Expectations, 1860-61)

Charles Dickens was born in Landport, Hampshire, during the new industrial age, which gave birth to theories of Karl Marx. Dickens’s father was a clerk in the navy pay office. He was well paid but often ended in financial troubles. In 1814 Dickens moved to London, and then to Chatham, where he received some education. The schoolmaster William Giles gave special attention to Dickens, who made rapid progress. In 1824, at the age of 12, Dickens was sent to work for some months at a blacking factory, Hungerford Market, London, while his father John was in Marshalea debtor’s prison. “My father and mother were quite satisfied,” Dickens later recalled bitterly. “They could hardly have been more so, if I had been twenty years of age, distinguished at a grammar-school, and going to Cambridge.” Later this period found its way to the novel LITTLE DORRITT (1855-57). John Dickens paid his £40 debt with the money he inherited from his mother; she died at the age of seventy-nine when he was still in prison.

…..you can read the rest of his biography, along with a list and description of his various works here

The Manuscripts

By Annette Low, Book Conservator, Conservation Department

what follows, can be read in it’s entirety, along with vivid descriptions of the binding and conservation process, here. This excerpt was originally published as part of a larger article in the V&A Conservation Journal, no.9, October 1993, pp. 4-7 (ISSN 0967-2273). The Manuscripts are kept at The National Art Library (NAL) in the Victoria and Albert Museum, where they are also available on microfilm.

Fig, 1: Charles Dickens, the manuscript of ‘American Notes’ before conservation

Charles Dickens, the manuscript of 'American Notes' before conservation

This collection of manuscripts covers a range of 33 years of Dickens’ writing, with Oliver Twist being the earliest (1837-9) and The Mystery of Edwin Drood still unfinished (1870). Not only does this long period show the development of Dickens’ writing style, but it is also witness to a gradual change from iron gall ink to blue ink and from cream to blue writing paper in a time of developments in paper production and artificial pigments.

The novels were published in weekly or monthly magazines and the manuscripts bear signs of close co-operation with printers and illustrators: fingerprints of printing ink, printers’ names scribbled across the pages and leaves that were often cut in half to distribute them amongst the typesetters.

Leading an active life, Dickens was writing in different locations, at his house in Kent or his town house in London, while travelling in the UK and also abroad. Different quills and nibs and change in ink supplies lead to differences in ink shades which give valuable evidence of his process of planning, writing and correcting.

The manuscript was written on one side only of a machine-made writing paper. The double leaves were folded and torn in half before writing; all manuscript leaves therefore have one torn side. Cancelled text and corrections are found on the verso. Corrections are also sometimes carried out by sticking another piece of paper across the cancelled text with seals.

The manuscript pages were glued to a slightly larger thin support paper along the two vertical edges which then had been in-layed during the last rebinding into a blank book of strong repair paper. Narrow gutter margins and the incompatibility of all the papers involved had led to creasing and warping of the manuscript leaves (Fig.1). The strain for the manuscripts was evident in a strong resistance and rattling sound every time a leave was turned over. This was also dangerous for already brittle areas of iron gall ink.

Questions Put to Zach Plague

December 31, 2008

posted by Caroline Picard; Zach is coming to read at the Parlor next week on January 6th. Here is an interview I found between him and the Pilcrow Lit Fest. You can find out more about them, and read some other great interviews with exciting young authors here. You can listen to previous readers at the parlor website, www.theparlorreads.com.

From the Pilcrow Lit Fest: Five With Zach Plague

“Five With…” asks five simple questions of someone involved with Pilcrow Lit Fest. For our next guest, please welcome Zach Plague.

1. What are you working on now?

I’m working on my debut novel, boring boring boring boring boring boring boring. It’s a hybrid typo/graphic novel, which means it’s heavy on the design end. I took my time writing and editing it, and the result is I kind of have to design in a panic. Beyond that I’m always working to promote the swell authors we put out on featherproof. This Will Go Down on Your Permanent Record is our latest book, and it’s a YA novel, which is different for featherproof, so there are a lot of new outlets to explore.

2. What is your favorite part of literary festivals and why?

I like the schmoozing, the boozing, and the… perusing. Of good books.

to read the rest of this interview (and see his fancy photo-ma-graph)  go here….

                                           
posted by Caroline Picard; more of this correspondence can be seen 
(including letter no. 2 and so on) going here. 

einstein-l

                                             Albert Einstein
                                             Old Grove Rd.
                                             Nassau Point
                                             Peconic, Long Island

                                             August 2nd 1939

F.D. Roosevelt
President of the United States
White House
Washington, D.C.

Sir:

      Some recent work by E.Fermi and L. Szilard, which has been com-

municated to me in manuscript, leads me to expect that the element uran-

ium may be turned into a new and important source of energy in the im-

mediate future. Certain aspects of the situation which has arisen seem

to call for watchfulness and, if necessary, quick action on the part

of the Administration. I believe therefore that it is my duty to bring

to your attention the following facts and recommendations:

      In the course of the last four months it has been made probable -

through the work of Joliot in France as well as Fermi and Szilard in

America - that it may become possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction

in a large mass of uranium,by which vast amounts of power and large quant-

ities of new radium-like elements would be generated. Now it appears

almost certain that this could be achieved in the immediate future.

      This new phenomenon would also lead to the construction of bombs,

and it is conceivable - though much less certain - that extremely power-

ful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed. A single bomb of this

type, carried by boat and exploded in a port, might very well destroy

the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory. However,

such bombs might very well prove to be too heavy for transportation by

air.
                                 -2-

      The United States has only very poor ores of uranium in moderate

quantities. There is some good ore in Canada and the former Czechoslovakia.

while the most important source of uranium is Belgian Congo.

      In view of the situation you may think it desirable to have more

permanent contact maintained between the Administration and the group

of physicists  working on chain reactions in America. One possible way

of achieving this might be for you to entrust with this task a person

who has your confidence and who could perhaps serve in an inofficial

capacity. His task might comprise the following:

      a) to approach Government Departments, keep them informed of the

further development, and put forward recommendations for Government action,

giving particular attention to the problem of securing a supply of uran-

ium ore for the United States;

      b) to speed up the experimental work,which is at present being car-

ried on within the limits of the budgets of University laboratories, by

providing funds, if such funds be required, through his contacts with y

private persons who are willing to make contributions for this cause,

and perhaps also by obtaining the co-operation of industrial laboratories

which have the necessary equipment.

      I understand that Germany has actually stopped the sale of uranium

from the Czechoslovakian mines which she has taken over. That she should

have taken such early action might perhaps be understood on the ground

that the son of the German Under-Secretary of State, von Weizsäcker, is

attached to the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut in Berlin where some of the

American work on uranium is now being repeated.

                                            Yours very truly,
                                             signature
                                            (Albert Einstein)

SYSTEMS OF CONCEALING

December 29, 2008

posted by Caroline Picard; I want to argue that this is a relevant step in the course of recent blog posts- and for a run down, I’d diagram the following: 1) Anais Nin (sexually liberal writer) to 2) Jane Austen (Reserved and Victorian writer) to 3) An excerpt of a particular letter from Pride & Prejudice, to 4) Victorian pencils to 5) Eros & Hypertext 6)Messages concealed in Victorian letters, to 7) Systems of concealing. All of which, I feel can be applied sucessfully to the world of spies and artmaking, which afterall, might not be so different after all…..

The original site for the following post (along with a myriad of brilliant details) can be seen here.

lespion-s-james-bond-spy-camera

SYSTEMS OF CONCEALING

* The oldest means of sending secret messages is to simply conceal them by one trick or another. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus wrote that when the Persian Emperor Xerxes moved to attack Greece in 480 BCE, the Greeks were warned by an Greek named Demaratus who was living in exile in Persia. In those days, wooden tablets covered with wax were used for writing. Demaratus wrote a message on the wooden tablet itself and then covered it with wax, allowing the vital information to be smuggled out of the country.

The science of sending concealed messages is known as “steganography”, Greek for “concealed writing”. Other classical techniques for smuggling a message included tattooing it on the scalp of a messenger, letting his hair grow back, and then sending him on a journey. At the other end, the recipient shaved the messenger’s hair off and read the message.

Steganography has a long history, leading to inventions such as invisible ink and “microdots”, or highly miniaturized microfilm images that could be hidden almost anywhere. Microdots are a common feature in old spy movies and TV shows. However, steganography is not very secure by itself. If someone finds the hidden message, all its secrets are revealed. That led to the idea of obscuring the message so that it could not be read even if it were intercepted, and the result was “cryptography”, Greek for “hidden writing”. The result was the development of “codes”, or secret languages, and “ciphers”, or scrambled messages.

* The distinction between codes and ciphers is commonly misunderstood. A “code” is essentially a secret language invented to conceal the meaning of a message. The simplest form of a code is the “jargon code”, in which a particular arbitrary phrase, for an arbitrary example:

   The nightingale sings at dawn.

— corresponds to a particular predefined message that may not, in fact shouldn’t have, anything to do with the jargon code phrase. The actual meaning of this might be:

   The supply drop will take place at 0100 hours tomorrow.

Jargon codes have been used for a long time, most significantly in World War II, when they were used to send commands over broadcast radio to resistance fighters. However, from a cryptographic point of view they’re not very interesting. A proper code would run something like this:

   BOXER SEVEN SEEK TIGER5 AT RED CORAL

This uses “codewords” to report that a friendly military force codenamed BOXER SEVEN is now hunting an enemy force codenamed TIGER5 at a location codenamed RED CORAL. This particular code is weak in that the “SEEK” and “AT” words provide information to a codebreaker on the structure of the message. In practice, military codes are often defined as “codenumbers” rather than codewords, using a codebook that provides a dictionary of code numbers and their equivalent words. For example, this message might be coded as:

   85772 24799 10090 59980 12487

— where “85772” maps to BOXER SEVEN, “12487” maps to “RED CORAL”, and so on. Codewords and codenumbers are referred to collectively as “codegroups”. The words they represent are referred to as “plaintext” or, more infrequently, “cleartext”, “plaincode”, or “placode”.

Codes are unsurprisingly defined by “codebooks”, which are dictionaries of codegroups listed with their corresponding their plaintext. Codes originally had the codegroups in the same order as their plaintext. For example, in a code based on codenumbers, a word starting with “a” would have a low-value codenumber, while one starting with “z” would have a high-value codenumber. This meant that the same codebook could be used to “encode” a plaintext message into a coded message or “codetext”, and “decode” a codetext back into plaintext message.

However, such “one-part” codes had a certain predictability that made it easier for outsiders to figure out the pattern and “crack” or “break” the message, revealing its secrets. In order to make life more difficult for codebreakers, codemakers then designed codes where there was no predictable relationship between the order of the codegroups and the order of the matching plaintext. This meant that two codebooks were required, one to look up plaintext to find codegroups for encoding, the other to look up codegroups to find plaintext for decoding. This was in much the same way that a student of a foreign language, say French, needs an English-French and a French-English dictionary to translate back and forth between the two languages. Such “two-part” codes required more effort to implement and use, but they were harder to break.

* In contrast to a code, a “cipher” conceals a plaintext message by replacing or scrambling its letters. This process is known as “enciphering” and results in a “ciphertext” message. Converting a ciphertext message back to a plaintext message is known as “deciphering”. Coded messages are often enciphered to improve their security, a process known as “superencipherment”.

There are two classes of ciphers. A “substitution cipher” changes the letters in a message to another set of letters, or “cipher alphabet”, while a “transposition cipher” shuffles the letters around. In some usages, the term “cipher” always means “substitution cipher”, while “transpositions” are not referred to as ciphers at all. In this document, the term “cipher” will mean both substitution ciphers and transposition ciphers. It is useful to refer to them together, since the two approaches are often combined in the same cipher scheme. However, transposition ciphers will be referred to in specific as “transpositions” for simplicity.

“Encryption” covers both encoding and enciphering, while “decryption” covers both decoding and deciphering. This should also imply the term “cryptotext” to cover both codetext and ciphertext, but this term doesn’t seem to be in use, although the term “encicode” is sometimes seen. The science of creating codes and ciphers is known, as mentioned, as “cryptography”, while the science of breaking them is known as “cryptanalysis”. Together, the two fields make up the science of “cryptology”.

Despite the fact that the term “code” is misleading, for the sake of readability this document will retain the use of general terms like “codebreaker”, “code bureau”, “code expert”, and “army codes”, rather than continually belaboring the distinction between codes and ciphers. As long as the distinction between “code” and “cipher” is clearly understood, this usage should cause no difficulty. By the way, in cryptographic examples, cryptographers like to use the fictional characters “Alice” and “Bob”, with Alice writing encrypted messages and Bob decrypting them. This convention will be followed in this document, along with the unconventional use of “Holmes” as a fictional codebreaker.

A Victorian Subtext

December 29, 2008

posted by Caroline Picard

This is an example of a cryptogram that was headed Female Ingenuity and used by a newlymarried young lady who was obliged to show her husband all the letters she wrote. The original site for this post, as well as other letters Victorian letters & rituals can be seen at :home.kendra.com/victorianrituals I would argue that such skills are useful in any kind of art, where the most plain things tell only half the story. Hiding messages is also useful to spies.

letter

I cannot be satisfied, my dearest friend;
blest as I am in the matrimonial state,
unless I pour into your friendly bosom,
which has ever been in unison with mine,
the various sensations which swell
with the liveliest emotions of pleasure,
my almost bursting heart. I tell you my dear
husband is the most amiable of men.
I have now been married seven weeks, and
have found the least reason to
repent the day that joined us.
My husband is
in person and manners far from resembling
ugly, cross, old, disagreeable and jealous
monsters, who think by confining to secure a wife;
it is his maxim to treat,
as a bosom friend and confidant, and not
as a plaything or menial slave, the woman
chosen to be his companion. Neither party,
he says should always obey implicitly;
but each yield to the other by turns.

The letter’s message was:

I cannot be satisfied, my dearest friend,
unless I pour into your friendly bosom,
the various sensations which swell
my almost bursting heart. I tell you my dear
I have now been married seven weeks, and
repent the day that joined us.
My husband is
ugly, cross, old, disagreeable and jealous.
It is his maxim to treat
as a plaything or menial slave; the woman
he says, should always obey implicitly.


by Lily Robert-Foley

This piece of writing is loosely based on an experience reading the book shaped rendition of a hypertext poem by mIEKAL aND and Maria Damon called Eros/ion. The hypertext of eros/ion can be found here: http://english.umn.edu/joglars/erosion/

erosion_thumb


The other night, drunk, the back seat of a speeding car, the outside, the kaleidoscopic hue of drunk at night. I turned to my roommate and good friend,

“When you have a memory of a routine, do you think that it’s one moment that has become a synecdoche of a series of moments, or an amalgamation of an indeterminate number of moments consolidated into one memory?”

Over the past couple of months I have been working on a project transcribing memories from an old and over love affair. I’ve realized in the process that even my most distinct and precise memories are subject to eros/ion, for instance, I remember the bathroom of the apartment where I lost my virginity (or gained my non-virginity as it occurs to me now is a better expression). I have a fresh vision nearly as vivid as reality. I have the undeniably sensual experience of physical presence, as fully as I am on this train, as full as the creak of the train against the steel tracks, the irritating red head on her cell phone, the pod shaped windows, the dull sheen of the train lights on the navy seats.

But I set out to write my memory of the bathroom that now only exists in my memory and I find there has been a curious eros/ion of its features. What color were the tiles? The shower curtain? The walls? What was the shape of the sink? The form of the toilet flusher? My memory has no smell, no taste, no detailed or distinct images. And yet it hits me with the visual and sensual force of the present. It is as though the memory has the power to evoke the feeling of experience, but it has none of its substance.

[…]

Eros/ion shares subject matter with my project that has been on-my-mind of late. The two poets, mIEKAL aND and Maria Damon set about write (transcribe?) memories from respective past lovers. The title of the work, “eros/ion” is multiple, its significations splaying out in directions like a frayed rope. One, it is unavailable whether the erosion refers to the effects of time upon memory, the effects of memory upon experience, or the effects of writing upon memory, experience, time.

Writing itself is an act of memory, but as we write sometimes it enables us to forget: now recorded, stowed away somewhere beyond me. Certainly culture writes collectively in order to be able to forget. Or to enact the two fold practice of remembering in order to forget. And it is likewise through writing that we discover our forgetting. I’m suddenly there again, in the bathroom where I gained the absence of my virginity, so full it’s present, and yet my pen stumbles of the paper, my descriptors lack the specificity of reality.

In any event, it is clear to me that writing changes memory. It rebirths it, distorts it, gives it new presence, and also calls up the unperceived changes that time, the weather, the friction of the wind, has levered against its surface, it’s hard rock landscape. We go back to a land we haven’t visited for many years and we find we have to make a new map.

experience the hypertext eros/ion here: http://english.umn.edu/joglars/erosion/

or order the book here: http://www.lulu.com/content/1569733

read another review of Eros/ion here: http://ntamo.blogspot.com/2007/12/maria-damon-miekal-and-erosion.html,

more books by the authors here: http://xexoxial.org/