10/1/21

Infinity Land Press Anthology presents artists and writers who overstep the mark, erase boundaries and confront the horror and sensuality of the human condition, a multi-genre exploration of the imaginative expression of the brutal facts of life.

 


Anthology, Ed. by Steve Finbow, Infinity Land

Press, 2021.


Twenty-three works of art and literature, twenty-three works of discord and desire, zones of contact and regions of conflict, a glossary of the weird and the violent, the erotic and the transgressive, always in a state of flux, constantly reanimating, endlessly mutating. Provocative and poetic, the Infinity Land Press Anthology presents artists and writers who overstep the mark, erase boundaries and confront the horror and sensuality of the human condition, a multi-genre exploration of the imaginative expression of the brutal facts of life.


CONTRIBUTORS​

Stephen Barber - Philip Best - Martin Bladh - Michael Carter - Dennis Cooper - Paul Curran - Zac Farley - Brad Feuerhelm - Steve Finbow - Devin Horan - Marc Hulson - New Juche - Shane Levene - Michael Mc Aloran - Hector Meinhof - Jeremy Reed - Michael Salerno - Jack Sargeant - Gary J. Shipley - Jukka Siikala - S. M. H - Audrey Szasz - - Eugene Thacker - Karolina Urbaniak

9/6/21

qntm - An antimeme is an idea which, by its intrinsic nature, prevents people from spreading it. How do you contain something you can't record or remember? How do you fight a war against an enemy with effortless, perfect camouflage, when you can never even know that you're at war?

qntm, There Is No Antimemetics Division, 2020.

https://qntm.org/fiction

https://scp-wiki.wikidot.com/qntm-s-author-page

read it at Google Books


An antimeme is an idea with self-censoring properties; an idea which, by its intrinsic nature, discourages or prevents people from spreading it.

Antimemes are real. Think of any piece of information which you wouldn't share with anybody, like passwords, taboos and dirty secrets. Or any piece of information which would be difficult to share even if you tried: complex equations, very boring passages of text, large blocks of random numbers, and dreams...

But anomalous antimemes are another matter entirely. How do you contain something you can't record or remember? How do you fight a war against an enemy with effortless, perfect camouflage, when you can never even know that you're at war?

Welcome to the Antimemetics Division.

No, this is not your first day.



This is a fantastic exploration of a particular SF/horror subgenre by the master himself. There are precursors and adjacent fiction - Langford's BLIT, the concept of "infohazards", The Laundry Files - but this is just on a different level.

Partly thanks to its origins on the web via the SCP Foundation project, the story is told in a series of vignettes, requiring the reader to deduce and piece together the whole story in their mind (until they can dimly perceive the vast outlines of...)

The text is philosophically interesting and narratively engaging. The horror will hit you in the guts, but also eat away slowly at your mind as you puzzle away at the implications (Thomas Ligotti retire binch!)

To say this is just typical of a qntm production is only to point out that he's consistently excellent.

It's only 200-odd pages long and a couple of quid on Google Play. In terms of various ratios (enjoyment/page, enjoyment/price, mindblows/page) this is probably the best book I've read this year. Go buy it! - Tom

This book reads like the Laundry Files weird older sibling.

Time jumps and memory gaps are used effectively to convey the struggle against inhuman threats to memory and identity.

The plot spirals inward, sprinkling clues like breadcrumbs for you to piece together. If you like that kind of thing (as I do) it's great. But if you are looking for a fast-paced read with spoon-fed information, then this is not the tale you are looking for. - Brent

These stories scared the crap out of me. I think the idea of memes that are self-camouflaging, that eliminate their own traces, reflects a deep existential unease and questions about epistemological uncertainty, in a moment when 40% of Americans are lost in conspiracy theories, compounded by the near certainty of a future in which we will be able to manipulate perception and memory in a far more profound way. How do we fight an enemy that denies its own existence? - James Hughes

“How would you fight something that kills you if you think about it?”

Take a second right now and really think about how a creature like that would work: one that can’t harm you until you know it exists, and by then – it’s too late . A monster that devours not just the victim, but the idea of the victim too. A thing whose footprints are the gaps in your mind where people you knew used to be.

“There is No Antimemetics Division” by qntm is the best kind of science fiction. It’s the kind that asks a smart question about the way the world could be and then truthfully, thoughtfully, answers it. It explores consequences – turning sometimes complicated scientific scenarios into narratives that leap off of the page and bury themselves at the back of your mind and the bottom of your gut. It fills pages with gripping characters, places, and things, which don’t just help to talk about the science, but harmonize with each other in a way that practically sings it to you.

It’s also deliciously gross and horrific, and oddly touching. It’s not a book without faults (the ending got a little out-there, even for me), but a perfect book to me is a book that I finish and then want to read again. This onr scratches the same itches that films like Ex Machina and Coherence do for me: stories that are interested in the human ramifications of a smart problem and hope the audience is too. It was a thrilling, refreshing, and thought-provoking ride. - Matt Woodcock

Truly original science fiction is rare, but somehow qntm has stuck on a whole vein of new ideas. This antimemetics concept is brilliant. There is a Lovecraftian element here, sure, and a whole host of other influences, but the way this narrative is told, and the intellectual core of it is really something that I've never encountered before.

This is a story about creatures that feed on information and memories, such that half of this novel is about people trying to guard their own memories - they are constantly remembering and forgetting. The plot is necessarily fragmentary to accomodate this. At first this book felt more like a collection of short stories than a novel, but that feeling didn't stick around. This is a novel, and all the little details are relevant.

I had never heard of qntm before I bought this book yesterday. To my shame, I just picked it up because I liked the cover and the title sounded cool. It's good to take a chance on something now and again. But in the end, I was really surprised. This is some of the best science fiction that I've read in a long while. - Felix

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54870256-there-is-no-antimemetics-division


There Is No Antimemetics Division by qntm

This story is complete.

Interlude

Read this before Five Five Five Five Five.

Five Five Five Five Five by qntm

This story is a direct sequel to There Is No Antimemetics Division. This story is complete.

Deleted scenes

Here is some bonus material which for various reasons never made it into the actual Antimemetics Division stories or onto the wiki.


  




qntm, Ra, 2021.

https://qntm.org/ra


Magic is real.

Discovered in the 1970s, magic is now a bona fide field of engineering. There's magic in heavy industry and magic in your home. It's what's next after electricity.

Student mage Laura Ferno has designs on the future: her mother died trying to reach space using magic, and Laura wants to succeed where she failed. But first, she has to work out what went wrong. And who her mother really was.

And whether, indeed, she's dead at all...



qntm, Fine Structure, 2021,

https://qntm.org/structure


Fledgling physicist Ching-Yu Kuang has discovered a Rosetta Stone for all of physics, a treasure trove of advanced scientific breakthroughs beyond all imagination. Exotic energy, teleportation, FTL, parallel universes and near-infinitely more wonders are just within reach; a promise of paradise.

But every attempt to exploit this new science results in sabotage, chaos and destruction. And the laws of science themselves are changing with each experiment, locking out the new discoveries, directly altering the universe to make what should be possible impossible. While Ching watches, humanity's future is being stolen.

Because there's something wrong with his world. There's a fundamental flaw, a defect in its structure...



qntm, Ed, 2021.

https://qntm.org/ed


Ed MacPherson is your college whiz-kid hyper-scientist: wormholes, time travel, heavy stellar engineering. When the aliens attack and you need a giant robot to fight them, he's your guy. When a galaxy goes missing, he's the one who misplaced it.

But there's something wrong in the dark layers of Ed's universe... and the problem might just be Ed himself...

Felix Riesenberg - three-hundred-some pages of fragments. Some are little essays. Some are segments of short stories or character sketches that span a few pages... all are chopped into chapters. But you cannot cup up a river.

Image result for Felix Riesenberg, Endless River,

Felix Riesenberg, Endless River, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1931.



Continuing my way through the works of Felix Riesenberg, the long-forgotten American merchant mariner-engineer-writer, I took up his most experimental work, Endless River (1931). I’ve yet to make up my mind whether Riesenberg was a great or merely a good writer, but he was, unquestionably, a remarkable one, and there is no better proof of that than this striking book.
On the epigraph page, Riesenberg quotes the critic Harry Hansen: “There is only one definition for a novel–it is the way the man who writes it looks at the world. And there are as many ways of writing a novel as there are ways of looking at the world.” As one reviewer, Robert Leavitt, wrote in The Saturday Review, “Accept Mr. Hansen, and Endless River is a novel. Reject him, and it is a formless pot pourri.
Well, even as a novel, it’s a formless pot pourri. Or rather, it has no more form than a river, which is why one of the very few critics to even notice the book compared it, not surprisingly, to Finnegans Wake. “Books–novels, treatises, tracts, and the like–are chopped into chapters. But you cannot cup up a river. You cannot stop it and let a little trickle out after filering impurities. The river keeps on, and so does this, until lost in the endless paths of time.”
Unlike Finnegans Wake, though, Riesenberg’s river is not one continuing stream of words but three-hundred-some pages of fragments. Some are little essays. Some are segments of short stories or character sketches that span a few pages. Many are, I assume, Riesenberg’s own musings. One after another they flow through the pages until the end is reached.
Unlike a real river, however, which at least has gravity as an identifiable driving force, Endless River appears to have no purpose behind it other than to satisfy Riesenberg’s fascination with the swirling currents of humanity he observes in the streets of Manhattan. In which case, a better parallel to Endless River than would be Dos Passos’ Manhattan Transfer, which is less a novel than a collage of narratives, popular songs, advertisements, and set pieces.
In Dos Passos’ case, however, as with his trilogy U.S.A., the stories are threads that run throughout the book, while Riesenberg’s characters are more like landmarks his river touches and then leaves behind for good.
There are some wonderful sketches in the book, such as the wealthy dandy who finds himself stranded in upper Manhattan late one night and finds himself slowly losing his identity on his long walk home. Or Major John Hollister Truetello, who writes out the same four letters every night (“My dear sir, may I not adress you so, you the happy father of a newborn babe…”) and sends them off to four addressees picked out from various directories. Or Old Mr. Kindleberry, who carefully records names in his notebook.
Each day he chose a letter, and for twenty lines, after the greatest care and consideration, he wrote euphonious words, one under the other, spelling them out with rare and discriminating joy. Mr. Kindleberry never made a mistake in spelling; it was a little joke of his own, for the words he wrote down were of his own invention…. Here are some of his words, beginning with the letter D: Dianop; Dathter; Dilldyle; Daggerhampton; Dopda.
While there is a little something Borgesian about Truetello, Kindleberry, and a few of the three or four dozen characters in the book, they are all more symbols than convincing personalities.
“Which character in Endless River are you?” reads the marker ribbon in the first–and so far, only–edition. “None,” I suspect most readers would answer. Riesenberg’s characters are, in fact, just bits of flotsam and jetsam caught up in this outpouring of words. They are there to serve his purpose, which seems mostly to be to argue that there is no point in trying to give any form to the lives and interactions of men. At least for some time to come. “If we are right today (I mean 1931 or thereabout), then in 256,789 we should be stabilized.”
Until then, Riesenberg seems to argue, billions more bits of humanity will be carried along in the endless river. “There was never a writer less literary in temperament than Felix,” wrote his friend Christopher Morley in a Saturday Review piece after his death in 1939. “His sheer lack of conscious technique makes him irresistible. Put him under a sudden gust of emotion and watch his penmanship.”
“Penmanship” is hardly a word that a writer would want his work described as, but I have to wonder if Endless River would have gained a publisher in the first place without the influence of friends like Morley. However, whether it ultimately comes to be judged a novel, a pot pourri, or just a unique flood of prose, it is certainly a testament of a writer with a powerful need to tell how he looked at the world. - https://neglectedbooks.com/?p=1717

Image result for Felix Riesenberg, Endless River,
Felix Riesenberg, P. A. L.: A Novel of the American Scene,  
Robert M. McBride & Co., 1925


Felix Riesenberg (1879-1939) worked in the Merchant Marine, was part of two unsuccessful attempts to reach the North Pole by airship, served as a civil engineer for the state of New York, ran the New York Nautical School (now the State University of New York Maritime College), and was Chief Officer of the U. S. Shipping Board. He also wrote several books about the sea, including the manual, Standard Seamanship for the Merchant Service (1922).
And then, around the age of 44, he decided to write a novel.
P.A.L.–the resulting book–does start at sea, with the dramatic wreck of a beat-up Russian freighter carrying refugees in a storm off the coast of Washington State. The writing certainly demonstrates Riesenberg’s familiarity with the ways of ships and the sea.
By page 10, however, the sea is left behind, never to be revisited. Lieutenant Dimitri Marakoff, master of the ship at the time of its sinking, is washed ashore with other survivors, and, taken for an Englishman, listed as D. Markham. Given a new set of clothes, a few dollars, and a referral to a businessman named P. A. L. Tangerman, D. Markham is sent off to Seattle to make his way.
In Seattle, he learns that Tangerman is the entrepeneur responsible for introducing the Cudahy Vacuum Dome. Not knowing whether that’s “a mountain or a mine,” he goes to see Tangerman. A brash, cigar-puffing man clearly assured of his own ingenuity, Tangerman accepts Markham as an Englishman without a second thought, and takes an immediate liking to Markham. He offers him a job as some kind of private advisor and sends him out the door with referrals to a haberdasher and a boarding house.
Only then does Markham see the dome, being demonstrated in a downtown storefront: “an immense bulb of bright aluminum” with “the outlines of an exaggerated coal-scuttle helmet.” Copper pipes connect it to a vacuum motor: “The great invention was intended to cause hair to sprout on bald heads, by relieving the air pressure above the cranium.” In other words, an elaborate gimmick for curing baldness.
No one, however, doubts the genius of Tangerman or the certain success of the dome. And Tangerman has other enterprises: Vim Vigor V. V., a vitamin tonic; Glandula, a miracle elixir made from sheep glands; four different brands of cigars and cigarettes, all made from the same tobacco. Hailed as a titan of American industry, Tangerman works into the wee hours jotting down the secrets to success.
It’s all heady, exciting stuff for Markham and the many others in his orbit. Only no one ever sees much in the way of cash. And when the dome is accused of blowing up and injuring a customer, everyone from the haberdashers to the office furniture store start taking back their goods.
This proves a temporary set-back, though, and soon Tangerman and Markham are off to Chicago to make an even bigger splash. Tangerman founds a correspondence course school, a publishing house for cheap editions of the classics, and several magazines. One of them, Marcus and Aurelius, aims at being the most outrageous bundle of claims around–a precursor of the Weekly World News. It celebrates all of Tangerman’s gimmicks and more:
[F]ly traps, stills, liquor flavors, beer powders, trick sets, face lifting, jumping dice, depilatories, deodorizers, whirling sprays, installment diamonds, eye brighteners, nose straighteners, stammering cures, permanent curls, lip sticks, blush controllers, dimple makers, gallstone removers, self-bobbers, liquor agers, tape worm expellers, rubber underwear, hair restorers, finger print messages, sleuthing secrets, pyorrhoea, lucky rings, hypnotism, halitosis, pimple cures, lover’s secrets, pile removers, racing tips, dancing steps, etiquette, and short story courses.
“Print dirt, but don’t dose it with perfume,” is the editor’s maxim.
Tangerman buys land along Lake Michigan, builds an enormous mansion with its own power plant, buys a great yacht on which he throws wild parties with plenty of bootleg booze. He keeps surfing from one wave of speculation to another, all of based on little or no hard capital. And though he marries a sweet girl from Seattle for who Markham carries a torch, he keeps up a steady stream of mistresses, including the psychic, Countess Voluspa Balt-Zimmern.
Tangerman’s ventures also keep spiralling up from the ridiculous to the insane, culminating in a secret pact with a lunatic miner with a box full of gold in fine sand form. The miner claims to have found a huge deposit of the stuff off in some unnamed desert in the West, and Tangerman and all his fellow speculators become drunk on the possibilities of the world’s greatest gold find.
As one might expect, the bubble eventually pops, and with devastating–and in Tangerman’s case, fatal–results.
P.A.L. is reminiscent of two novels from twenty years earlier: Frank Norris’ The Octopus and The Pit, both of which attacked the blind destructiveness of speculation. But it’s also very much a novel of the 1920s and wild stock speculation, which ultimately led to the great market crash of 1929. Riesenberg’s work has less of Norris’ young man’s passion and more of the perspective and humor of a middle-aged man who’d already been through more than his share of adventures. Although Markham, his narrator, never seems to know what’s going to happen from moment to moment, the reader can’t help but catch the whiff of impending doom early on, and it’s no great surprise when it comes.

What I find most interesting about this book is simply the notion that a man with almost thirty years’ experience of working at sea, mastering the craft and sciences of navigation, sailing, propulsion, shipbuilding, and civil engineering, would pick up a pen and write this rollercoaster ride through the world of hype, gimmicks, and entrepeneurship. Riesenberg revels in the absurdity of Tangerman’s ventures and seems to have delighted in being able to pick the names of his characters: Punderwell Moore; Springer Platterly; Chauncey Wilber Tambey; Saxe Gubelstein; Jesspole McTwiller. (No one ever does find out what the initials P. A. L. stand for, though).
And then from this first novel, Riesenberg went on to write at least four others, all of them sweeping in scope, with dozens of characters up and down the social strata, and several (particularly Endless River) fairly experimental for their time.
While I don’t think P.A.L. should be considered a neglected masterpiece, it is a lively and self-confident novel than stands (in terms of literary merit) only a step or two back from Norris’ books (neither of which are really masterpieces, either, but better known for their historical importance). I’ve picked up three other Riesenberg novels, along with his 1937 autobiography, Living Again, and plan to spend some of the next months reviewing the fictional output of this remarkable man. - https://neglectedbooks.com/?p=1534
Image result for Felix Riesenberg, Endless River,
Felix Riesenberg, Living Again: An Autobiography, Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1937.

I’ve stocked my nightstand with a selection of books by Felix Riesenberg, whose first novel, P. A. L., I wrote about several months ago. Riesenberg was a professional merchant seaman and civil engineer who took up writing somewhere in his thirties and went on to publish about a half dozen novels and an equal number of non-fiction books before his death in 1939. One might compare him to Joseph Conrad, who also switched from sea captain to writer, but Riesenberg is certainly not in Conrad’s class when it comes to fiction.
Still, I’m intrigued by what drove Riesenberg to make such a dramatic shift in occupations in middle age, and particularly by the fact that, as P. A. L. demonstrates, he took considerable risks in his choice of subjects and approach. Although the majority of his books deal with life and work at sea, none of them seems to follow a predictable path. Riesenberg have not have had the mastery to be fully successful in his artistic ambitions, but he certainly didn’t lack the courage to take risks.
As Riesenberg’s 1937 autobiography, Living Again: An Autobiography, shows, risk taking was ingrained in his character. While still a teenager, he signed into merchant marine service, sailing around Cape Horn in a six-master and working his way up through the ranks, attaining his chief mate license and, later, his chief engineer and master licenses.
Riesenberg served on a wide variety of ships, from schooners to freighters to first-class Atlantic liners. His travels took him from the Far East to the Mediterranean and all over the Atlantic. But even these experiences weren’t enough for him, and in 1905, at the age of 26, he read an article about an expedition being organized by an American journalist, Walter Wellman, to reach the North Pole by dirigible. “The scheme was crazy enough to seem workable,” Riesenberg writes. He paid a call on Wellman, who happened to be in Chicago at the same time as Riesenberg was taking leave at home, and a few days later, received a telegram telling him to report to Tromso, Norway to join the expedition as its navigator.
The expedition’s equipment loaded down four schooners, which sailed to Dane’s Island, near Spitsbergen. A base camp was built, including a massive hangar for the dirigible, but things fell behind schedule, the airship’s engines failed spectacularly when tested, and Riesenberg and two other men were left to spend the winter alone while the rest of the team returned to Norway. The next summer, the dirigible was finally completed and Wellman, Riesenberg and another man set off for the North Pole.
Within a few hours, though, they encountered powerful head winds and soon had to make an emergency landing on a glacier. A rescue party located them the next day. Riesenberg departed not long after they made it back to the base camp. “I returned, not a hero, not a bit the wiser–for it took years of contemplation before I was able to even bear the thought of setting down the circumstances of my disappointment.”
Back in New York, he enrolled in the civil engineering program at Columbia University after an uncle offered to help with tuition. He married soon after graduating, and the adventurer soon found himself scraping to stay afloat: “After marriage, things happened to me. I tried to save but could not manage it. Unexpected jobs, royalties and windfalls came to me often in the final minutes before the crack of disaster.” He worked on the construction of massive pipelines bringing water to the city. He worked for the Parks department until kicked out of the job with a change of administrations. He worked as a building inspector, which proved one of his more educational jobs:
Violations, reported by neighbors, policemen, and what not, consisted of fire escapes that were rusting apart, of fire doors unhinged and inoperative, or air shafts too small, of drains leaking, of the many things that can be wrong with any ramshackle structure. The job took me into places nothing else could have opened; no novelist could find a better entree to the steaming and often stinking heart of the bloated, untidy, but exciting city.
Then, in 1917, the sea called him again, and he was asked to take command of the U. S. S. Newport, the floating campus of the New York Nautical School. Riesenberg was both ship captain and college dean. He reveled in the glories of the ship, a sparkling white three-master, one of the last sailing ships built for the U. S. Navy. While the war was going on, the ship was confined to Long Island Sound, but after the Armistice, he was able to take it on a long cruise down to the Caribbean.
A portrait of Felix Riesenberg as Superintendent of the New York Nautical School
Riesenberg left the command in 1919, but returned four years later for another cruise. This time, he took the students on a voyage of thousands of miles, all the way from England to the Canary Islands and the Bahamas. Along the way, they encountered a massive storm that nearly capsized the ship. You can read an account of the cruise by one of the students, A. A. Bombe, online at http://www.sunymaritime.edu/stephenblucelibrary/pdfs/1923%20cruise%20uss%20newport.pdf.
In between and after, he kept moving from job to job–a year as chief engineer for the construction of the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital; somewhat longer editing the Bulletin of the American Bureau of Shipping; and, increasingly, stories and articles for the likes of The Saturday Evening Post. Riesenberg spares little space for his own writing. One novel he dismisses in a sentence as “a rotal flop, a complete and thorough failure.” His 1927 novel, East Side, West Side, though, was a hit and made into a film, one of the last big-budget silents, which earned him a time in Hollywood as a studio writer.
“Felix, why don’t you write a book about your life?” one of his editors asked him in 1935. So Riesenberg packed up his journals and diaries and headed to a small house on the beach near Pensacola. “After seven months on the edge of a warm and reminiscent sea,” however, “the truth came upon me with a feeling of dread–I was a stranger to myself.” Though he managed to set down the account that appears in this book, he confesses at the start that, “I look upon these things as strange occurrences, common, no doubt, to all of us.”
Despite the many colorful episodes and Riesenberg’s strong and direct prose style, however, that odd sense of detachment prevades Living Again and leaves it, in the end, a less than satisfying autobiography. The reader cannot help but get the sense that Riesenberg’s most intense experiences occurred during his early years at sea, and that most of what happened thereafter seemed anticlimactic.
Still, I will carry on with my navigation through Riesenberg’s novels. I just started Endless River, which Robert Leavitt described as, “a torrent that pours through a book—the torrent of Mr. Riesenberg’s thought and comment on life…. It swirls and eddies, formlessly; it gnaws at its restraining backs; it throws up a spray that gleams, now and then, with an unholy phosphorescence. And it tumbles along a burden of flotsam that is the most curiously assorted ever a river bore.” Clearly another example of Felix Riesenberg’s willingness to take risks. - http://neglectedbooks.com/?p=1684


Image result for Felix Riesenberg, Endless River,
Felix Riesenberg, Passing Strangers, Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1932.


In his autobiography, Living Again, Felix Riesenberg mentions his 1932 novel, Passing Strangers, just once, calling it “a failure.” Riesenberg’s criticism is hardly any harsher than that of time itself, since the book has vanished along with most of his oeuvre and has apparently never even earned a mentioned in academic articles on literature of the Great Depression.
Yet Passing Strangers is a powerful specimen of the effect of the Depression on the creative mind. In the book, Riesenberg takes a cross-section of society and subjects it to the disruptive and erratic effects of a great economic collapse. As he put it in his preamble, “A group of people, caught in the mesh of cams and gears, are tossed about by the machinery of life.”
Riesenberg starts his story with “The Average Man,” Robert Millinger, a lowly elevator operator in the new and splendid Babel Building, the pride and envy of all Manhattan. Millinger is a perfectly working cog:
After a time people who entered and left the elevator, familiar or strange, no longer meant things to Mr. Millinger. They were merely presences. He responded to them without thought, or reason, but correctly. Clever as his car was, it was crude compared with that stranger flexible, self-oiling, economical machine, Robert Millinger, elevator operator No. 243, Imperial Holding Corporation. Residence 749 Taylo Street, Brooklyn. Married.
Millinger himself is a cipher, but he believes that makes him an invaluable source of insights into the common man, and fantasizes about being taken into the confidence of an important executive, such as Isidore Trauenbeck. Trauenbeck runs the Babel Building and dozens of other properties. “His day,” Riesenberg writes, “was marked by the grease spots of those completely squelched.” Even greater than Trauenbeck is his own boss, the mysterious tycoon, A. Thouron Clamson, an amalgam of Donald Trump, Howard Hughes, and John D. Rockefeller. Clamson puts Tom Wolfe’s “Masters of the Universe” to shame:
A. Thouron Clamson hadn’t a single title. He signed his name with a flourish, beginning with Clamson, weaving the A. Thouron into the device with a degree of skill grown from long practice. He owned in many things, almost endless things, holding control of such vast interlocking and intermeshing activities that great charts were prepared to keep the picture reasonably in hand. He always prepared to shift his money from one raft to another at a moment’s notice. He owned sixty percent of Mid-Continental Gas. Then he bought out the rival pipe line of Sioux Service, and suddenly dumped his M. C. G., pounding it down while booming Sioux. On the swing, he drew back all but five percent of the first company. These two were then combined and on the seventh day he rested from his labor. But the labor, of course, was done by others. He merely decided.
Riesenberg reaches down from Clamson to Millinger through a string of almost random connections, drawn in such a way that only a few of his characters share acquaintances. They are, as the title suggests, passing strangers, but they share one thing in common: all are affected in some profound way, by the stock market crash and the resulting depression. Millinger loses his job, is abandoned by his wife and daughter, and nearly dies of hunger and exposure on the streets of New York. Millinger’s wealthy cousin, Zekor, is forced to move from Park Avenue to a slum in Brooklyn and dies on a park bench, worn out by the relentless loss of property and self. Willy Jennings, the department store owner who takes Millinger’s wife, Launa, as his lover, finds his web of speculations and leveraged deals collapsing around him and jumps from his office window [Riesenberg recounts one of these supposedly apocryphal suicides in Living Again.] Millinger’s daughter, Diana, in turn, becomes Clamson’s mistress, until she sickens of his esthetic and moral excesses. Clamson experiences the it all as mild turbulence, not even bothering to buckle his seatbelt.
Riesenberg wraps everything up in a climactic disaster scene somewhat foreshadowing events at the World Trade Center, as radicals set off truck bombs and explosives in the subway system to protest the human destruction caused by capitalism. Clamson is assasinated as he sits in traffic in his limousine. Millinger’s daughter escapes from the chaos with a man who used to drive Zekor Millinger’s Packard. And, ironically, Millinger is rescued by a young woman who brings him to Clamson’s wife, a noted supporter of social causes.
While certainly less experimental than his previous novel, Endless River, Passing Strangers lacks nothing in comparison when it comes to ambition. Riesenberg didn’t have quite the technical mastery to bring off all he aspired to, but the book is never less than enthralling. I read it in just three days, sitting in cafes as my wife and daughter shopped around London during Thanksgiving. It demonstrates yet again that we need to find a place in our memories for the like of Felix Riesenberg, who may not always have succeeded in his literary attempts but deserves to be recognized as a bold American artistic adventurer. - http://neglectedbooks.com/?p=1729

9/3/21

Gerry Reith's best writing was marked by mordant wit and controlled experimentation, but the cumulative gravamen of his protean literary and epistolary endeavors was to interrogate and celebrate the prospect of freedom in a universe governed by venal agendas and brute entropy.

 

Neutron Gun Reloaded: A Gerry Reith Reader, 

Nine-Banded Books, 2020.


On April 7 1984, in the small city of Sheridan Wyoming, Gerard Bennet Reith died at his writing desk of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. He was 25.

While the details of Reith’s suicide remain hazy and subject to apocryphal embellishment, the work he produced during his apogee as a writer for a raft of underground publications left an indelible impression in the minds of those who discovered it. Consorting at the bleeding edges of what has since been described as the “marginals milieu” of the pre-Internet era, Reith traded arts and letters with a motley coterie of avant garde outsiders whose only alliance distilled to a spirit of freewheeling creative rebellion.

Athwart and among these misfits who inhabited and cultivated the mail-order demimonde that preceded Anonymous and the chans and cryptocurrencies and 3D-printed gun schematics and incel manifestos and myriad manifestations of digital mischief that would later complicate the Spectacle, Gerry Reith produced essays and criticism, poetry and prosody, broadsides and collages, but most notably allegories and metafictions. And his work invariably stood out. Reith’s best writing was marked by mordant wit and controlled experimentation, but the cumulative gravamen of his protean literary and epistolary endeavors was to interrogate and celebrate the prospect of freedom in a universe governed by venal agendas and brute entropy.

Neutron Gun Reloaded: A Gerry Reith Reader is the first collection of Gerry Reith’s writings to be published in more than three decades. In addition to reprinting the core texts signed for the 1985 Neither/Nor Press edition of Neutron Gun, this volume presents a broad selection of Reith’s lesser-known writings culled from long-defunct small circulation publications. Featuring a new foreword by Reith’s former publisher Denis McBee as well as an introduction by Nine-Banded Books publisher Chip Smith and a bibliography of Reith’s extant writings compiled by Bob Black, this is the definitive introduction to the largely forgotten work of a writer who lived and died before his time.


The short life and extraordinary work of revolutionary writer Gerry Reith explored.

Picture Sheridan Wyoming. Your first impression.

Start with Big Horn peaks set against vast horizons. A crystal-blue firmament, or if you prefer, the star-dusted canopy of night. Nested within the lazy sprawl of cattle ranches and postcard vistas, the town itself offers such rudiments of civilization – a grocery outlet, some barbecue restaurants, dim-lit taverns, shops showcasing western memorabilia – that suffice to satisfy the needs of a small population as well as the slow stream of tourists, many (not all) of whom will look forward to Rodeo Week and attendant festivities. Local charm, local colour. You know.

Daylight now. Nod hello to passersby as you stroll down Main Street. They are a friendly lot and their eyes won’t be fixed on the screens of mobile devices because the year, I neglected to mention, is 1984. This is important; go ahead and revise Your Own Personal Sheridan accordingly. The automobiles should be backdated and decorated at your discretion with legible signifiers. Maybe some Reagan/Bush bumper stickers? That Starbucks will have to go. Otherwise, not much will have changed.

Continuing on your mind’s eye ramble, you come to a community bulletin board outside the small, nondescript Post Office. Look at those flyers. All in all, it’s a familiar collage. Tourist that you are, you first notice the ones that advertise local farm and ranch services. It’s mildly exotic, yes? But there are others that might be found in any American city or town. Lost pets. Babysitting services. Guitar lessons. Et cetera. Do you find this comforting?

Look closer.

Displayed among the random patchwork of community ephemera, there are… oddities. Being a punk sophisticate from the future, you may recognize the hand of a subversive poster artist, Xerox as medium.

“TRUTH IS LIES” shouts one banner that lassos your attention.

Another asks: “WHO IS GERRY REITH?”

 High weirdness resides in the fine print. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

How, you might rather wonder, in the heart of Cold War Reagan country, might the locals have received such provocative broadsides, such cryptic expressions of obliquely dissident satire that, for a time, blotted their dogpatch town-centre pastiche? Were they mystified? Amused? Bemused? Were they—some of them —given to a moment’s reflection?

More likely, they took it in stride. Some kid’s idea of a joke.

Still, you wonder. Perhaps your borrowed understanding of the Markov Chain comes to mind. A state change in the system. A disruption. You fix on the idea of a white current rippling through a multi-hued sensory order, a neural rift that bleeds between minds and forward through time, disturbing equilibria.

It is best, for now, not to dwell in such idle speculation. For present purposes, there is more to see.

Mosey your way into the lobby of the Post Office proper and imagine what voices might have carried on a particular day—let’s say April 23rd, a Monday, and my fourteenth birthday—as you sidle up to the counter where one postal clerk can be overheard chatting up another.

You don’t catch all of it, but certain words ring clear. Something about a backlog of weird mail for that lanky dude who until recently arrived like clockwork. And perhaps another clerk calls in answer:

You mean Gerry, right?

Something is amiss.     read more here


9/2/21

I Transgress - Transgressive fiction encourages the pursuit of knowledge and actively criticises the monolithic, authoritarian aspects of moralistic society. And, honestly, this is what we need to survive the apocalypse. The dreams are twisting but any movements or turns are cushioned, like it’s us turning the world rather than the other way around




I TRANSGRESS: An Anthology Of Transgressive Fiction, Ed. by Chris Kelso, Salo Press, 2019.

excerpts


‘Transgressive fiction encourages the pursuit of knowledge and actively criticises the monolithic, authoritarian aspects of moralistic society. And, honestly, this is what we need to survive the apocalypse. After all, transgressive fiction embodies such fundamental aspects of the human experience. Among these fundamentals are: initiation and the transition from innocence to experience; the nature of good and evil; the consequences of knowledge; and the notion of free will or individual responsibility, and so on. Writers like Samuel Delany acknowledge the need for rebellion and understand that it is indeed natural. The natural urge of the writer is to first create a solid differentiation between good and bad. Once clearly discerned, the writer can explore the grey in between. But reveling in the darkness is interesting and worthwhile. If you’ve read Delany’s Hogg – a story about a pre-adolescent boy called “cocksucker” who is sold into sexual slavery – you’ll know that beauty can be extracted from our darker compulsions. The story focuses on such deviant behavior – coprophilia, coprophagia, molestation, incest, urolagnia, necrophilia – but the writing is ethereal and crisp. There is no grey. Only black transgressive-coloured shadows. Given the recent institutional changes in education, family relations, coupled with the rise of corporate conglomerates, most books are driven by commodity which inevitably dictate the tastes and strictures of fiction. These books aren’t bad, but they’re usually boring. They appeal to the depleted, part-time animal. But literature, like music and all forms of art, will eventually run out of new places to go, so must turn to cannibalisation. If this is the case, then why not cannibalise the parables of suffering? Sodom and Gomorrah, mate.’ — Chris Kelso

Featuring: Laura Lee Bahr, Tom Bradley, Joshua Chaplinsky, Garrett Cook, Dennis Cooper, Samuel R. Delany, Andrew Gallix, C.V. Hunt, James Joyce, Violet LeVoit, Edward Lee, Nick Mamatas, Thomas Moore, Scott Philips, The Residents, Matthew Revert, R.G. Robertson, Michael Salerno, Lauren Sapala, Gary J. Shipley, Iain Sinclair, John Skipp



Have you ever picked up a book and then wondered if someone had put it together just for you? I got that feeling when I read the table of contents of I Transgress. Not only did it include some of my favorite authors often labeled as “transgressive,” such as Dennis Cooper and Thomas Moore, but also bizarro authors, horror authors, some big names like Samuel R. Delaney and James Joyce, but The Residents have a story in here as well? I was very excited to start reading this.

The collection starts off strong with “Solidarity Forever” by Nick Mamatas. This is a dark and satirical story in which a hippie couple from the United States seek out “the most oppressed person in the world” in order to have sex with them. It’s a brutal and hilarious skewering of American imperialism, especially when it goes under the banner of humanitarian efforts.

Another favorite of mine is “The Cinematographer” by Thomas Moore. In it, a young man attempts to commit suicide and film it. As he thinks about how he could have filmed it professionally if he had more than an iPhone, he receives a text from his boyfriend. Moore has a real knack for combining disturbing scenarios with some real, deeply felt emotions, and this story is no different. “Heartwarming” is not a word you usually associate with transgressive literature, but Moore pulls it off here.

The Residents may seem like the odd ones out here. Yes, it is the band famous for their weird music and eyeball masks. Those more familiar with their recent work may be less surprised. Members of the band/collective have turned to writing recently, even releasing a novel called The Brickeaters. Their contribution here is a story called “The Healer and the Ailing Archer: A Fable of Love and Loss.” It does, in fact, read like an old fable. An archer meets a young man with supernatural healing powers and falls in love with him. However, their relationship eventually begins to grow distant and the archer loses his livelihood as muskets begin to make archery obsolete.

The story reads very much like the lyrics of The Residents from their Demons Dance Alone and Animal Lover era. It’s a melancholy look at human longing for connection. Fear of aging and becoming a relic, both in society at large and to the ones close to you, are major concerns here. It’s one of the more memorable works in the anthology.

“From All the Ugly Things: Excerpt From An Interview” by Gary J. Shipley is written in the form of an interview between someone who may be a police officer and a serial killer. The serial killer speaks in broken English and gradually reveals more and more disturbing details of his crimes. The story is profoundly disquieting, giving a sense of overhearing a conversation you weren’t supposed to and giving just enough to leave you wondering exactly what you missed.

Lauren Sapala, who contributes “California Nights,” is an author I was introduced to in this collection. Her story is a dreamy trip through the isolated roads of California at night. The characters include Charles Manson, Richard Ramirez, and “the blue woman.” The events of the piece include Ramirez blowing Manson, a parade of luxury vehicles, and the ground swallowing people’s bodies. This is less a story and more a literary mood piece and it works very well. I look forward to reading more of Sapala’s work.

Scott Philips, author of The Ice Harvest, was another I was introduced to with his story “Old Blue Eyes.” This is one of the most traditional short stories in the collection, but it’s an effective one. A mountain climbing guide agrees to lead a woman, who is working on a book about a man who froze to death on a mountain, to the place that the man died and where his frozen corpse can still be found. When he comes back to lead her back down, he finds that she had other plans for the frozen body. The story is a mix of disturbing and hilarious and delivers it with a straight-faced subtlety.

I Transgress had me excited going in and it didn’t disappoint. It’s an excellent collection of edgy stories from different genres from humor to horror, from traditional to experimental, and from new and lesser-known authors to big name ones. This anthology is a must-have for anyone interested in fringe literature. - Ben Arzate     https://babou691.com/2021/05/21/i-transgress/





Ernest Vincent Wright - The novel is written as a lipogram and does not include words that contain the letter "e". When it first appeared in 1939 it was hardly noticed by the general public, but a modern reviewer called it "probably the most ambitious work ever attempted in this genre"

 

Ernest Vincent Wright, Gadsby, 1939.

excerpt


Written from the perspective of a self-deprecating narrator, 'Gadsby' is - at its core - a tale of a town in a state of concerted rebirth. In an effort to reverse the plight of the place that he calls home, the protagonist organizes the town's youth. In doing so, we watch as the small piece of suburbia becomes a shining beacon of what towns can - and perhaps should - be. Once established, we are led through a series of years, ever bearing witness to the idealism of the organized youth, and the results of their labors. While not a particularly compelling story, the reverence for this work of narrative art is not diminished. What makes this book notable is the ridiculously difficult challenge in crafting that it presents, and the time, effort, and passion it must have taken to give rise to such a thing. It is an overt, Quixotic flaunting against the word ‘impossible’.


Gadsby: A Story of Over 50,000 Words Without Using the Letter "E" is a 1939 novel by Ernest Vincent Wright. The plot revolves around the dying fictional city of Branton Hills, which is revitalized thanks to the efforts of protagonist John Gadsby and a youth group he organizes.


The novel is written as a lipogram and does not include words that contain the letter "e". Though self-published and little-noticed in its time, the book is a favourite of fans of constrained writing and is a sought-after rarity among some book collectors.

The novel's 50,110 words do not contain a single e. In Gadsby's introduction Wright says his primary difficulty was avoiding the "-ed" suffix for past tense verbs. He focused on using verbs that do not take the -ed suffix and constructions with "do" (for instance "did walk" instead of "walked"). Scarcity of word options also drastically limited discussion involving quantity, pronouns, and many common words. Wright was unable to talk about any quantity between six and thirty. An article in the linguistic periodical Word Ways said that 250 of the 500 most commonly used words in English were still available to Wright despite the omission of words with e. Wright uses abbreviations on occasion, but only if the full form is similarly lipogrammatic, i.e. "Dr." (Doctor), and "P.S." (Postscript) would be allowed but not "Mr." (Mister).

Wright also turns famous sayings into lipogrammatic form. Music can "calm a wild bosom", and Keats' "a thing of beauty is a joy forever" becomes "a charming thing is a joy always".



Fifty-year-old John Gadsby is alarmed by the decline of his hometown, Branton Hills, and rallies the city's young people to form an "Organization of Youth" to build civic spirit and improve living standards. Gadsby and his youthful army, despite some opposition, transform Branton Hills from a stagnant municipality into a bustling, thriving city. Toward the end of the book the members of Gadsby's organization receive diplomas in honor of their work. Gadsby becomes mayor and helps increase Branton Hills' population from 2,000 to 60,000. The story begins around 1906 and continues through World War I, Prohibition, and President Warren G. Harding's administration.

"Gadsby" is a lipogram - a whole novel of some 50.000 words without a single instance of the letter E. When it first appeared in 1939 it was hardly noticed by the general public, but a modern reviewer called it "probably the most ambitious work ever attempted in this genre". Hardcopies of the book are extremely rare and sell for thousands of dollars. (Summary by Availle and Wikipedia)



 First, credit where credit is due: Ernest Vincent Wright managed to write a 50,000 word novel without using the letter 'e'. If you're wondering just how tough that is, my first sentence there had 15 of them. From that perspective, this is a fun read.

Beyond that, though, I don't know how many people are going to stick with this book. It's an overly cute - I'd have to say trite - "Our Town" style story about John Gadsby and his campaign to wake up the sleepy little town of Branton Hills through his Organization of Youth - both turning the little town into a booming city and empowering the next generation.

It's a very dated (written in 1939 and set well before that) book and carries the same sensibility. The boys go off to war, build homes and get jobs while the ladies take care of the babies. Looming over it all, of course, is the spectre of demon alcohol. Some of it is cute, some is even motivational, but a lot is syrupy and sickly sweet, which to be fair was the way of storytelling back then.

A shorter novel - clocking in at 123 pages - you can probably get through it before the "no 'e'" novelty wears off but all you'll really take away from it is the fact that he pulled it off. That said, I caught him cheating twice, but I'm a grammar Nazi. - Larry McCloskey


I thought I would try to copy Wright in my ruminations about his book Gadsby, which has no hint of what follows D's tail in our ABC. Not in any word put to work in this story! But it is so difficult (and slow) to think in such a way that I will quit and go back to normal, although I must pat my own back for writing this far without using that tiny but important thing known as an E.

When I first saw this book listed at Project Gutenberg, I had to wonder why anyone would try to pull such a stunt. A story of 50,000 words without using a single E?! The man must have been bored, had way too much time on his hands, who knows what. But I became more and more curious. How did he do it? Did he write a real story that made sense or did he just scribble some vaguely connected thoughts? I added it to my To-Read list, thinking I would get to it someday.

But everyday I saw the title there on my profile page and finally I could not stand the suspense anymore so I started to read. The author discusses the challenge in his introduction, reminding everyone of his plans for the story and how he sometimes would start a thought and have to go back and start over after writing himself into a corner.

I was distracted at first by hunting for the missing letter; who wouldn't be? But I quickly became caught up in the history of the town of Branton Hills and Gadsby, the man who nearly single-handedly was responsible for helping the town grow into a near Utopia. There is sometimes a bit of preachiness and moralizing, but there is also drama: it seems that even without an E in sight, there are always a few snakes in any garden of Eden.

This story felt like reading a letter from an old friend, and I was actually sorry to come the end, but happy with the way everything turned out. Then I saw the note below FINIS. "Transcriber's Note: Did any "e"s survive the publishing process? Yes, three "the"s, and one "officers" — all have been retained as published." I don't remember seeing a single E, and some day I will re-read to see if these three really are there. If you find them, let me know! - Debbie Zapata

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1454666.Gadsby






8/31/21

Timothy Dexter - Bottom of the page unleashes onslaught of pilcrows, daggers, double vertical lines and section signs. They are confined to a single line and greatly disrupts general pace of the composition. The rest of the symbols — disjointed crowd of question marks, colons, exclamation marks, comas, donts, and occassional quotation marks with hyphens are like cornered refugees.

 

Timothy Dexter, A Pickle for the Knowing Ones: or Plain Truths in a Homespun Dress, 1802.

download    or     read it here   or   here


 "Pickle"--- as this digest is commonly known --- is a collection of correspondence and chronicles penned by Dexter and first self-published as an anthology in May of 1802. Dexter was a well-known eccentric of the time period.


The message of this humorous short book is as relevant as it was when it was first printed in 1802. Lord Drexler of Texas wrote "Kimchi of a Confidant: The Plain Truth". This novel was so successful that he became a stranger than life in Massachusetts in the early 1800s. Although he was not educated, he first married into money and then engaged in unconventional business dealings, thus becoming very rich. In the publication, he complained about politicians, clergy and his wife. Some things will never change! The book originally contained 8,847 words and 33,864 letters, but there was no punctuation, and it appeared to be capitalized randomly. Initially, Dexter distributed his book for free, but because of its popularity, it was printed eight times. In the second edition, Dexter responded to complaints about the lack of punctuation in the book by adding 11 extra pages of punctuation, and instructed printers and readers to insert them where needed.



Lord Dexter is a man of fame;

Most celebrated is his name;

More precious far than gold that's pure,

Lord Dexter shine forevermore.


Timothy Dexter (1747-1806) was an American businessman noted for his writing, eccentricity and uncommon good fortune in odd business dealings (exporting stray cats to the carribean for example).

Snubbed by New England high society, Dexter bought a large house in Newburyport and decorated with minarets, a golden eagle on the top of the cupola, a mausoleum for himself and a garden of 40 wooden statues of famous men, including George Washington, William Pitt, Napoleon Bonaparte, Thomas Jefferson, and himself. It had the inscription, "I am the first in the East, the first in the West, and the greatest philosopher in the Western World".

At age 50, Dexter authored the book A Pickle for the Knowing Ones, in which he complained about politicians, the clergy, and his wife. The book contains 8,847 words and 33,864 letters, but without any punctuation and with unorthodox spelling and capitalization. One section begins:

Ime the first Lord in the younited States of A mercary Now of Newburyport it is the voise of the peopel and I cant Help it and so Let it goue

In the second edition, Dexter responded to complaints about the book's lack of punctuation by adding an extra page of 11 lines of punctuation marks with the instruction that printers and readers could insert them wherever needed.



Being clueless can start a legend. Timothy Dexter (1747–1806) was an interesting person to say the least. He was happy-go-lucky businessman from late 18th century. He had little to no education and absolutely supernatural sense of business opportinity. The man just knew what he had to do even though people were laughing at him almost all the time. Which came in handy in the recently declared independent Land of Opportunity AKA USA.

One of his most epic business exploits was when he shipped coal to Newcastle. People thought it was a stupid idea, a surefire bankrupcy. But it happened during a miner’s strike so it was sold very well. Later he exported stray cats to Caribbean islands to same reaction and it turned out to be a fine solution to a rat infestation problem. And then he shipped Bibles to West India just when the missionaries were in need of them…

He was also a notorious joker. He once told everybody that his had wife died and that the woman frequently seen walking in the house was just a ghost.

But his most infamous deed was writing a book. It was first released in 1802 and since then it was rereleased numerous times. It was terrible. Except for one thing.

***

This is a page 32 from the second edition of Timothy Dexter’s book “A Pickle for the Knowing Ones or Plain Truth in a Homespun Dress”. Its sole content are punctuation marks. A lot of punctuation marks: entire lines of comas, semicolons, colons, question marks, exclamation marks, more comas, dots and hyphens.

Punctuation is something the rest of “A Pickle for the Knowing Ones” was notoriously lacking. The first edition was just a wall of text broken into chunks seemingly at random with a liberal use of capitalization. Because one does not have time for such petty thing when he’s a got to tell his life story. Then, in the second edition Dexter added an extra page with punctuation marks as a response to a criticism. It was specifically for those who wanted to see some punctuation in the book.

The page was daring them to insert it back where it should have been — as the man said himself “peper and solt it as they plese”. Basically, a direct instruction to tear the page from the book, cut it into pieces and insert into the other pages.

This makes page 32 an early example of both conceptual writing and interactive fiction. Although mostly unintentional, since Dexter was just a serious man who wanted to tell a story of his life and opinions and stuff.

The page is layed out in a chromatic manner — one type of punctuation goes after another — paragraph after paragraph. It is very straightforward. Together paragraphs of punctuation marks develop massive, imposing visual rhythm — it is blatant and blunt and boisterous but also incredibly affecting. It succeeds in making an impression. Its deceptive straightforwardness is so enigmatic — it makes a fine fodder for an exquisite bout of creative overthinking. It just can’t be that simple, there must be something hidden behind these walls of punctuation marks even though it is just an offhand dig.

There are slight variations sprinkled here and there.

For example, sometimes marks are coupled together due to omitted space. There are two such instances — one with semicolons and the other with comas. In a way, it almost tells a story of noncomformity among the lines of punctuation.

And then there are double spaces that break the visual rhythm of the line — like in the exclamation mark paragraph. When you look through the page — line by line — this stumble is slighly disorienting.

Or you can find an exclamation mark sneaked into the question mark paragraph. It just happened to be there because why not — some excalamation marks like to hang out with the question marks — such is life.

And then there is a bullet point in the dots paragraph — proudly standing above the other marks. It is another story of noncomformity on this page — one nasty “take that” moment.

***

There is also very interesting version from Samuel L. Knapp 1858 biography of Timothy Dexter that included “A Pickle…” in its second part. In this version — it is substantially modified. The original page is condensed to a really thick block in the bottom of the page.

It also rearranges the positioning of the punctuation marks. Comas which were originally preceding dots are now situated after the dots and hyphens are replaced with dots. Instead of a strict succession of the symbols — there is a different layout — exclamation marks are inserted into the dots lines to form a descending triangle shape. Then goes a strikethrough plain of comas and another line of dots with an emanating mist of the question marks.

In a bizarre accident the overall visual shape of this variation is very reminiscent of an iconic photo from the Bikini Atoll Crossroads Weapon test. Which is weird.

On the next page we can another punctuation composition. Basically, it is an appendix to an appendix. It is inspired by the original and greatly expands it.

But instead of simply providing a full page of punctuation marks in concrete composition (AKA barely identified textual object) for the portentous feast of imagination, it attempts building some sort of a abstract piece with punctuation marks. And aptly fails to construct anything in particular. It is just another horde of punctuation marks that form some abstract angular shapes. If you look long and close enough it will definitely look like something apparently nondescript. There is definitely something that mind is just unable to identify the pattern.

The page greatly expands the variety of punctuation marks. Aside from traditional comas, dots, semicolons, colons, question marks, excalamation marks and hyphens — there are brackets round and square, horizontal curvy brackets, underscores, dashes, quotation marks. New signs are placed together and make great change of pace in the mundane composition.

These additions elevate the piece beyond concrete. They change the perspective into a very different plain — it is more of a performance score than simply a concrete punctuation composition.

New signs also add a slight physical element to the piece. The piece steps out beyond its boundaries. Quotation marks broken by underscores aptly evoke winking. Round and square brackets are visually similar to an opened mouth. Horizontal curvy bracket are like frowning brows. And then, once again, flats of dots and hyphens with a string of comas hanging like trophees. Unlike previous plains of colons and comas — these lines of dots and hyphen are very sound-alike, almost as if they were lines for humming.

Bottom of the page unleashes onslaught of pilcrows, daggers, double vertical lines and section signs. They are confined to a single line and greatly disrupts general pace of the composition. The rest of the symbols — disjointed crowd of question marks, colons, exclamation marks, comas, donts, and occassional quotation marks with hyphens are like cornered refugees.

Overall, this variation offers completely different experience and aptly shows the possibilities of punctuation-only writing.

***

Curiously, the online version of the page available on one of the Dexter’s fan-pages got very different composition. It follows closely Knapp’s 1858 version in the layout but also changes several crucial elements.

The biggest change is that it omits several punctuation marks — semicolons, colons and hyphens are missing. Instead, they are transformed into more comas and dots, probably due to lacking optical image recognition. There are comas, dots and more comas and more dots, exclamation marks and more dots and more comas and more dots, question marks and even more dots. The descending triangle is still there but it is more of a glimmer than a solid construction.

It is spacier, sparser, less dense version. Line spacing is much bigger and this disintegrates the image. In some way, it looks like a rows of an army (the one Joyce heard) in the field with different marks being different kind of troops.

The lines itself are extremely compressed. First four lines of comas and dots are divided five bits while the rest are left in a single piece. Last line is so condensed it ends up shorter than the rest.

Overall, it is much more abstract that 1858 version and because of that it is less effective — it just hangs there without having much to do.

***

Sometimes all it takes for a book to last is one stroke of brialliance that makes difference.

Page 32 is a crown jewel of otherwise unbearably horrendous mess that erupts void of awkwardness on those who tried to read it. -  Volodymyr Bilyk

https://volodymyrbilyk.medium.com/timothy-dexter-page-32-aka-punctuation-page-from-a-pickle-for-the-knowing-ones-d8138e3bca08



Unto you all mankind Com to my hous to mock and sneare whi ye Dont you Lafe be fore god or I meane your betters think the heir power Dont know thorts and Axsions Now I will tell you good and bad it is Not pelite to Com to see what the bare walls keep of my ground if you are gentel men you would stay Away when all is Dun in marble I expect to goue out myself to Help if thous grat men will send on there Likeness all over the younited States I wish all the printers to give Notis if pleases to in form by printen in the Nouspapers for the good of the holl of man kind.


Infinity Land Press Anthology presents artists and writers who overstep the mark, erase boundaries and confront the horror and sensuality of the human condition, a multi-genre exploration of the imaginative expression of the brutal facts of life.

  Anthology , Ed. by Steve Finbow, Infinity Land Press, 2021. Twenty-three works of art and literature, twenty-three works of discord and d...