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LETTERS

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  • Richard Stock
    I must apologize that I have not yet contributed to the LETTERS read. I didn t even respond to the poll, partially because I didn t know how to respond: I
    Message 1 of 9 , Aug 1, 2001
      I must apologize that I have not yet contributed to
      the LETTERS read. I didn't even respond to the poll,
      partially because I didn't know how to respond: I was
      just finishing a quick read-through of LETTERS as the
      reading here started. But I look forward to thinking
      about the book in the increments set by the group.
      Consider me as at whatever part we are currently
      discussing.

      I believe we are on 3:T. One of the things that
      struck me when I began the book, and that by this
      third section is well established, is the number of
      possible organizing principles one can use to
      interpret the novel. Just off the top of my head:
      chronology
      characters
      relationships among characters
      letter (meaning A, B, C, etc.)
      thread
      recipients of letters
      events
      numbers (especially 7).

      Any other ways to organize the book? It seems to me
      that each of these could yield different readings, and
      one of the things that excites me about LETTERS is the
      possibility to try out different methods. It's clear
      early on that this won't be a book that lays out all
      it has to say in an easily accessible linear fashion.

      One of these principles concerns me, however. That
      is, reading by letter (though it concerns me because
      it is probably the easiest pattern to interpret; I
      haven't thought through the others very much). In the
      first three sections I can see no meaningful pattern
      to labelling the letters by letters which correspond
      to the sentence "An old time episolary novel..." and
      which are used to begin each of the letters. That is,
      in section 3:T, letter M starts with an "M" (albeit an
      italicized one). Can anyone else see a meaningful
      reason for this? It seems to me that it is just a
      kind of decoration, a tool only for format, not for
      content. This isn't terrible, but worries me that
      others of these organizing principles might also be
      similarly shallow. But mainly I want to know if
      someone else sees something there that I don't.

      Also, can anyone point me to any writing done on
      narrative theory as applied to epistolary novels?

      Rick

      =====
      ======================
      Richard Stock
      Prague, Czech Republic
      ======================

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    • agrimorfee@hotmail.com
      ... Welcome to the fore, Rick! ... You are so correct! ... I don t. Don t know about yours, but my edition of the book (1982, Fawcett Columbine) doesn t have
      Message 2 of 9 , Aug 1, 2001
        --- In johnbarth@y..., Richard Stock <rstock00@y...> wrote:
        > I must apologize that I have not yet contributed to
        > the LETTERS read. I didn't even respond to the poll,
        > partially because I didn't know how to respond: I was
        > just finishing a quick read-through of LETTERS as the
        > reading here started. But I look forward to thinking
        > about the book in the increments set by the group.
        > Consider me as at whatever part we are currently
        > discussing.

        Welcome to the fore, Rick!

        >It's clear
        > early on that this won't be a book that lays out all
        > it has to say in an easily accessible linear fashion.

        You are so correct!
        >In the> first three sections I can see no meaningful pattern
        > to labelling the letters by letters which correspond
        > to the sentence "An old time episolary novel..." and
        > which are used to begin each of the letters. That is,
        > in section 3:T, letter M starts with an "M" (albeit an
        > italicized one). Can anyone else see a meaningful
        > reason for this?

        I don't. Don't know about yours, but my edition of the book (1982,
        Fawcett Columbine) doesn't have an italicized M. I always assumed
        that the chapter headings utilizing the "old time epistolary novel"
        sentence was just an organizational structure for JB. The
        possibility now just occurs to me that the "old time epistolary
        novel" sentence may have been an afterthought instead, as the book
        content is so dependent on calendar structure. Maybe JB has some
        other point of reference that casual epistolary novel-readers may be
        ignorant of. (readers will note the sometimes casual references to
        other such novels peppered throughout Letters.) Agrimorfee
      • Krzysztof Majer
        ... You may or may not remember that I was rather slow to notice the connection between the sentence that forms the title ( An old time... ) and the Capital
        Message 3 of 9 , Aug 1, 2001
          Rick sez:
          > >In the> first three sections I can see no meaningful pattern
          > > to labelling the letters by letters which correspond
          > > to the sentence "An old time episolary novel..." and
          > > which are used to begin each of the letters.

          Ag responds:
          > The possibility now just occurs to me that the "old time epistolary
          > novel" sentence may have been an afterthought instead, as the book
          > content is so dependent on calendar structure.

          You may or may not remember that I was rather slow to notice the
          connection between the sentence that forms the title ("An old
          time...") and the Capital Letters that stand for the separate
          section, but I have since thought it over some. I reckon that the
          sentence itself is an afterthought, coming at least after the
          distribution of the epistles across each month has been planned out
          according to those Capital Letters. (The many meanings of the word DO
          get in the way of decent communication here, I swear!)

          And while we're at it (the title + many meanings), my friends often
          remark upon seeing LETTERS lying around somewhere (and it's so darn
          big that it's hard not to see it!) "Oh, you're reading Barth's
          letters?" To which I of course reply "No, I'm reading Barth's
          LETTERS". Which is vicious, really, so I move on to explaining that
          it's actually a novel, blah blah. One of my friends actually mistook
          the word NOVEL that comes vertically, in a crossword fashion, through
          JOHN BARTH and LETTERS in the Dalkey edition,

          A
          JOHN BARTH
          O
          V
          LETTERS
          L

          , for LOVE - which would result in LOVE LETTERS. Now every time I
          look at the cover I see JOHN BARTH: LOVE LETTERS. Which is funny, but
          hardly surprising, if one takes for instance Kafka's letters to his
          mistress...

          Kris
          (A voyeur of private correspondence)
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