19 September 2008

Letter 3.39

The postal system, inscrewtably, has coughed up (with much clearing of the throat) your Bones, and I sit in my kuti sucking on the marrow, even after midday. It's a big book and with all the fat on it, it goes well with the lean diet of my morning meal. The book -- like much of Joyce -- is unreadable without the help of a dictionary, a Britannica, several Who's Who, a What's What, a set of almanacks, and primers for Greek, Sanskrit, Hebrew, Arabic, etc.

I remember when my agent (who may be, like yours, dead, for all I hear from him) told me that Getting Off was badly overwritten and had to be cut, my reaction was -- How could I possibly cut any of those sweat-drenched words, all so... so... so expressive of the very being of my soul... And I took the knife (Occam's razor) and carefully sliced a word -- and it hurt, and I bled, but when the wound healed (I heal fast) I saw that maybe there was, well, just a slight superfluity -- maybe this sentence here wasn't truly essential. Another lop.... And after a few days I was going at it tooth and nail, slash and burn, rip, rend, and reduce, cutting away all those joyful words that, beautifully organized as they were, had nothing to do, actually, with the story I was trying to tell....

I've still got many of them, in an envelope in my sister's garage. (My mother saved my baby hair, baby shoes, etc. -- the habit comes to me honestly.) About 25%-30%, in my case; I lost a lot of words, a lot of pages, and in the end Getting Off was a lot lighter and a lot healthier for it. It doesn't need to include every witticism, every verbal cleverness, every show of dexterity of which I'm capable. It can't, It need only be a spare sparse and straight story. (No doubt there's still some veins of marbling through it, but that's another matter.)

What I remember about Bones -- from the 1st time I read it, back in Ceylon -- was not all the verbal play (which is mostly unintelligible to me, lacking the erudition which you acquired – how? -- in the Canadian woods) and association-through-sound (which is soon wearying), but the story of the search for dem bones, and a large (but definitely unstated) body of implications which grows (in my mind, not on paper) from that story, and, which, 10 years later, is still remembered, and that's what I intend to rediscover from your mss. (which, thick as it is, also makes a nice desk on which to write this letter) and that's what you'll get back from me... Alam.

The Schizo Expert, by the way, is Silvano Arieti; the book is 'Interpreting Schizophrenia', You might find it worthwhile. Elsewhere he writes: '..There was nothing for her to look forward to. It was the end of her time; if by time we mean dimension in which we wish and will.

As for myself, Thailand is long and narrow, not straight and so I seem to imitate a yoyo (like Yoyosarian) or a vertical ping-pong ball bouncing about between the wats of the North and South, caroming cross-legged from kuti to kuti, and shedding a certain amount of superfluous weight with the exercise.


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