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  • Kris Majer
    Dear Co-Readers,(Boy, do I feel silly even t r y i n g to write a letter now!) Anyway, I think I have to RESET So good to be reading Barth again, a relief
    Message 1 of 5 , Jul 1, 2001
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      Dear Co-Readers,

      (Boy, do I feel silly even t r y i n g to write a letter now!) Anyway, I
      think I have to RESET So good to be reading Barth again, a relief after
      Pynchon! Not that "Gravity's Rainbow" wasn't pleasant, but as far as
      readability goes, there is no doubt that JB gets the prize. If they are two
      separate writers, of course, which theory - as yet not convinved by Mal to
      the contrary - I uphold and keep finding more and more evidence for.

      No matter: on with the story.

      May I? I believe I may, since it's July 1, the appointed date.

      Call me unobservant and altogether on the slow side, but it was only after
      reading about three fourths of 1:L and forever checking back to the opening
      page that I noticed that the way the epistles are ordered on the calendar is
      actually the letter L! Superfluous attention to a detail that you've
      probably all noticed right at the start, yes, well. But thanks to that I
      noted that the temporal direction of the epistles is backwards - from the
      8th of March 1969 back to the "2nd" where "now" is questioned - and then it
      surges forward with incredible energy, to March 16th and 23rd 1969. It is I
      think in keeping with what the Author says in the closing lines of his
      letter to Whom It May Concern: "like waves of a rising tide, the plot will
      surge forward, recede, surge farther forward, recede less far, et cetera to
      its climax and denouement." (p.49)

      Yet another interesting thing happens with the time in this bit: the 5th of
      March (A.B.Cook IV to his unborn child) happens obediently between the 6th
      and the 4th, but it is March 5, 1812 and since it's the Second Revolutions
      that are central to the novel, as we are informed, this date is quite
      important - and more so, because the character of Marylandiad mentioned in
      The Author to Whom It May Concern "would live the first half of his life in
      the first three dozen years of the republic (say, 1776-1812) and the second
      half in its "last" (say, 1940-1976)". Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny (at
      the expense of History, though, in this case at least) - I'd rephrase it in
      the spirit which to me is more Barthian - Ontogeny Can Be Made to
      Recapitulate Phylogeny, Q.E.D. So the first links between the two historical
      periods are established.

      Back to the letter L in the calendar: A through G downwards, but INE at the
      bend. All I could think of was G____INE, which I hoped was not too
      far-fetched since Lady Amherst promises to be the Muse and Central Character
      ("Literature Incarnate", "The Story Thus Far") - and since the novel's main
      character is probably the Novel or Literature... But then I found out it's
      part of the sentence that forms the title and that there is no need for
      hangman mysteries this time. Too much Pynchon, perhaps.

      Which, through Lady A., brings us to the Characters: the information I read
      some time ago to the effect that "the main characters from Barth's six
      previous novels and Barth himself write one another letters" has three
      mistakes in it, one of them perhaps much graver than the other two. Not all
      of the letter-writers are main characters, some are their relatives etc -
      and there is one new character. Neither Dunyazade, nor Perseus nor
      Bellerophon is present (in person, or Thus Far) - although J.B.Bray appears
      to represent both Giles Goat Boy and Chimera, so OK. But but but but BUT -
      "Barth himself"? The sub-subtitle tells us of "seven fictitious drolls &
      dreamers each of which imagines himself actual" - including The Author,
      which is not necessarily the same JB. Even the "fictitious" "Author" (the
      suitable number of quotation marks unknown) "for autobiographical >fiction<
      (has) only disdain", let alone the "real" JB...

      As for the Cook letters, the bone of contention among the Experienced
      LETTERS Readers: I found the first one very entertaining - perhaps because I
      loved The Sot-Weed Factor and was happy to be reminded of its plot.

      So much for now. LETTERS, Thus Far, is very enjoyable - no trace of the
      tediousness I've often heard it accused of. Perhaps not deep enough into it
      to feel it. Perhaps whoever said it was wrong. Perhaps perhaps something
      else yet.

      Shiny happy Kris (hooray for holidays)

      PS. I don't get the Worm Moon business - anyone willing to help? I mean is
      it JB's invention or a natural phenomenon I know nothing of?



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    • Mal
      ... ... mean is ... Because of extraneous circumstance, and to my profound regret, I am behind just about everyone in this reading. I d always bounced
      Message 2 of 5 , Jul 2, 2001
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        --- In johnbarth@y..., "Kris Majer" <stonk@f...> wrote:
        > Dear Co-Readers,

        <Snip>
        >
        >
        > PS. I don't get the Worm Moon business - anyone willing to help? I
        mean is
        > it JB's invention or a natural phenomenon I know nothing of?

        Because of extraneous circumstance, and to my profound regret, I am
        behind just about everyone in this reading.

        I'd always bounced through "Worm Moon" thinking, yes, I know what
        that means -- a baleful and sinister thin yellow light such as would
        be given off by the eye of a malevolent dragon (worm as in e.g.,
        "Ourouboros"). But this time, like Kris, I dove into the
        dictionaries and such like, and can find no reference. So now I'm
        unsure, but will stick to my story until disproved, since it makes a
        kind of ghastly sense. And anyway, I'm a big fan of "The Hobbit."

        Mal.
      • Mark Brawner
        Kris, you wrote re: the calendrical `L device and its significance:Superfluous attention to a detail that you ve probably all noticed right a= t the
        Message 3 of 5 , Jul 9, 2001
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          Kris, you wrote re: the calendrical `L' device and its significance:

          >Superfluous attention to a detail that you've probably all noticed right a=
          t the start, yes, well.

          Well, yes (but on the other hand it's not unheard of for me to miss
          the broad side of a barn, either: see below). I'm not sure why you
          call such attention superfluous.

          >[The calendar/title device] is I think in keeping with what the Author say=
          s in the closing lines of his letter to Whom It May Concern: "like waves of =
          a rising tide, the plot will surge forward, recede, surge farther forward, r=
          ecede less far, et cetera to its climax and denouement." (p.49)

          Very nice. Thanks for pointing that out.
          Re: March 5, 1812:

          >…since it's the Second Revolutions that are central to the novel, as we ar=
          e informed, this date is quite important…

          Ah, see already I've missed something "central" (not surprising
          a'tall!). Say more about this, Kris – I'm lost.
        • Mark Brawner
          I don t know why it turned out so mangled. All I did was paste it from MS Word. Sigh. ________________________________________________ Don t E-Mail, ZipMail!
          Message 4 of 5 , Jul 10, 2001
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            I don't know why it turned out so mangled. All I did was
            paste it from MS Word. Sigh.

            ________________________________________________
            Don't E-Mail, ZipMail! http://www.zipmail.com/
          • Kris Majer
            Me say: .since it s the Second Revolutions that are central to the novel, as we ar= e informed, this date is quite important.n den Mark say: Ah, see
            Message 5 of 5 , Jul 11, 2001
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              Me say:
              >>.since it's the Second Revolutions that are central to the novel, as we
              ar=
              >>e informed, this date is quite important.

              n den Mark say:
              >Ah, see already I've missed something "central" (not surprising
              >a'tall!). Say more about this, Kris - I'm lost.

              Take it easy, Mark. OK, so if I understand correctly, LETTERS itself is to
              be the second revolution in novel-writing, the first one being (probably)
              its invention - Cervantes? or around that time. The form is to be renewed,
              refreshed, RESET. Bonaparte's 100 days have been mentioned quite a lot - his
              RETURN, then (Bray talks about that the most, obviously). A.B.Cook is
              writing his letters in 1812 - often called the 2nd American Revolution,
              right? Perhaps JB says something about it in the 1994 preface to the Dalkey
              edition. Many more references to it in the novel, but haven't been taking
              notes and am not able to trace them now...

              Kris



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