“All words are masks and the lovelier they are, the more they are meant to conceal.”
― Steven Millhauser
And regressum infinitum…
“…Whatever condition we are in, we must always do what we want to do, and if we want to go on a journey, then we must do so and not worry about our condition, even if it’s the worst possible condition, because, if it is, we’re finished anyway, whether we go on the journey or not, and it’s better to die having made the journey we’ve been longing for than to be stifled by our longing.”
― Thomas Bernhard, Concrete
“Lines to a Lady With an Unsplit Infinitive”
by Raymond Chandler
Miss Margaret Mutch she raised her crutch
With a wild Bostonian cry.
“Though you went to Yale, your grammar is frail,”
She snarled as she jabbed his eye.
“Though you went to Princeton I never winced on
Such a horrible relative clause!
Though you went to Harvard no decent larva’d
Accept your syntactical flaws.
Taught not to drool at a Public School
(With a capital P and S)
You are drooling still with your shall and will
You’re a very disgusting mess!”
She jabbed his eye with a savage cry.
She laughed at his anguished shrieks.
O’er the Common he fled with a hole in his head.
To heal it took Weeks and Weeks.
“O dear Miss Mutch, don’t raise your crutch
To splinter my new glass eye!
There ain’t no school that can teach a fool
The whom of the me and the I.
There ain’t no grammar that equals a hammer
To nail down a cut-rate wit.
And the verb ‘to be’ as employed by me
Is often and lightly split.
A lot of my style (so-called) is vile
For I learned to write in a bar.
The marriage of thought to words was wrought
With many a strong sidecar.
A lot of my stuff is extremely rough,
For I had no maiden aunts.
O dear Miss Mutch, leave go your clutch
On Noah Webster’s pants!
The grammarian will, when the poet lies still,
Instruct him in how to sing.
The rules are clean: they are right, I ween,
But where do they make the thing?
In the waxy gloam of a Funeral Home
Where the gray morticians bow?
Is it written best on a palimpsest,
Or carved on a whaleboat’s prow?
Is it neatly joined with needlepoint
To the chair that was Grandma’s pride?
Or smeared in blood on the shattered wood
Where the angry rebel died?
O dear Miss Mutch, put down your crutch,
and leave us to crack a bottle.
A guy like I weren’t meant to die
On the grave of Aristotle.
O leave us dance on the dead romance
Of the small but clear footnote.
The infinitive with my fresh-honed shiv
I will split from heel to throat.
Roll on, roll on, thou semicolon,
ye commas crisp and brown.
The apostrophe will stretch like toffee
When we nail the full stop down.
Oh, hand in hand with the ampersand
We’ll tread a measure brisk.
We’ll stroll all night by the delicate light
Of a well placed asterisk.
As gay as a lark in the fragrant dark
We’ll hoist and down the tipple.
With laughter light we’ll greet the plight
Of a hanging participle!”
She stared him down with an icy frown.
His accidence she shivered.
His face was white with sudden fright,
And his syntax lily-livered.
“O dear Miss Mutch, leave down your crutch!”
He cried in thoughtless terror.
Short shrift she gave. Above his grave:
HERE LIES A PRINTER’S ERROR.
Roman Opałka was a French-born Polish painter who painted numbers. In 1965 he began painting a process of counting – from one to infinity. Starting in the top left-hand corner of the canvas and finishing in the bottom right-hand corner, the tiny numbers were painted in horizontal rows. As of July 2004, he had reached 5.5 million. (via triangulation)
Opalka painting by numbers
“The problem with putting two and two together is that sometimes you get four, and sometimes you get twenty-two.”
— Dashiell Hammett, The Thin Man
The famous Library at Alexandria, at its largest, housed perhaps as many as 500,000 scrolls, or the equivalent of some 25,000 books. A quaint number: ten years ago, we were publishing, in the U.S., around ten times that a year. Now, we publish that many every two and a half days.
Anyone with access to a networked computer can publish a book, or ten, or a hundred. Anyone with 500 bucks can see their book into print, and the novel that once would have lived its entire live in a drawer is now more likely to be downloadable. A manuscript that might never have found a home in the twentieth century, certainly not at a “legitimate” publisher as they were called, can now, with very little effort, be ordered online, printed in a run of one, and mailed to a buyer in a matter of hours. We used to call them vanity presses, the companies that helped people publish books not wanted by the traditional, commercial publishing world; now such companies are more often touted as the new business model.
We plan to run a series of pieces on the evolving book world, from independent solo ventures to micro publishers to small presses to the new mini-majors to the Big Six and the 600-pound gorilla. Getting us started is Joseph Peschel, a freelance journalist from South Dakota. He interviews a wide variety of people who have self-published, some happily, some less so, some unworried by the stigma, some with their hands bloody, some embarrassed, some victorious.
— Tom Lutz
Editors, reviewers, and even many authors believe that if you self-publish, you’re branded a sinner of sorts. You wear a scarlet S-P, signifying that you can’t get published because your work is inferior. If you promote your own work on the Internet, you must sheepishly precede the phrase “self-promotion” with “shameless.” It’s difficult to quantify the extent of the stigma, but we all know that publishing your own work has been frowned upon by writers for decades. Recently, genre authors Amanda Hocking (who writes young adult vampire novels) and John Locke (pulp thrillers) have had so much success independently publishing and selling hundreds of thousands of their own books that you’d think the self-publishing wall would’ve been kicked down and lying in a crumbled mess by now. But the stigma attached to publishing, promoting, and selling your own written word persists. Most writers, like Susan Shapiro, who’s written for the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and has conventionally published eight books, including comic novels and nonfiction through St. Martin’s Press and Delacorte, remain convinced that it’s better to get a mainstream publisher. Shapiro, who’s helped hundreds of her students get published, recently told me she would consider self-publishing, but only “if everybody else turned me down.”
No one ever faulted Woody Allen, Orson Welles, Quentin Tarantino, or Charlie Chaplin for writing, directing, and producing their own movies. No one disrespects musicians for distributing their music without a major label behind them. And poets — think of Walt Whitman, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and the authors of contemporary poetry chapbooks — have long been used to publishing their own work. Why then should independent publishing be regarded any differently? Especially when even established writers, in today’s traditional publication market, can have difficulty getting their publishers and agents behind a book? A slumping economy has pushed already-teetering bookstores into bankruptcy, further squeezed publishers’ profits, and reduced and in some cases eliminated book review space.