Random neuron firing, lame philosophy, literary pontificating, movies, sex, clothes & other femme stuff

Friday, August 29, 2003

Authors alligator-clamp readers' tender bibliophilic fantasies

Hey, Blue Roo! Thanks for clearing up my confusion about The Colour Out of Space! Yes, the retraction of turquoise was a shame. But there's something pretty delicious about scientists—top scientists, likely—discovering the universe is . . . beige. Thanks, too, for the link to the very cool Necronomicon site. There's a certain kind of Pavlovian salivating invevitably evoked in the reader by—an exquisite sadistic teasing on the part of the author in—such tantalizingly detailed representations of non-existent texts. The more important to you books are, the more of a total sap you can be for those evanescent creations granted a flicker or two just to wind a plot or character around. Such embedded texts transcend classification as merely a part of the surrounding narrative's "reality effect," even transcend being part of the story's setting, and step forward as robust characters inhaling the cool night breeze on their own. What immediately came to mind just then were the books in Roderick Usher's library (certainly an influence on H.P.'s lovingly crafted bibliophile fantasies), esp. The Mad Trist of Sir Launcelot Canning; the monographs of Sherlock Holmes (On the Variability of the Human Ear, On the Ash of 140 Different Kinds of Tobacco, A Practical Guide to Beekeeping), the blisteringly hilarious bibliography of Pierre Menard (sorry I can't find it in English), and the endless festival of invented texts without which no self-respecting Nabokov novel could manage to get out the front door.

But then, thinking about some of James's tales of literary life—"The Figure in the Carpet," "The Aspern Papers," "The Death of the Lion"—I wondered if maybe he could give Nabokov a run for his money in the sadistic-inculcation-in-the-reader-of-an-intense-desire-to-consume-a-nonexistent-text department.

And then I thought about A. S. Byatt. . . . Bibliophilic fantasy (or fantastic bibliophilia) writ huge. . . .
Not scholarly porn but scholarship porn.

Went to the airport this evening to get our friend Toots and felt like a gerbil negotiating one of those postmodern pompidou-fun-house gerbil dwellings, except made of enough poured concrete to encase the moon.

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