[Update November 2021: We’re back at Diary of Adamant Seducer. We’ll try to bundle it into a book someday. For now the chapters are linked to above. See Buy Our Books for the books we’ve already completed.]
I’ll lend you line from a happier time, when Bartleby Willard and Ambergris Whistletown were only a little inside out; it is the time just before now, the time right before they fled to the sea.
Bartleby Willard, thin, of an inhuman see-through hue like a bug larva, but without the vaguely jumbled gray insides of a bug larva. Bartleby Willard, who you can see through but fuzzily, not very satisfyingly. Bartleby Willard, wearing anyway a baggy disheveled light gray suit, and so pretty solid-looking. Bartleby Willard, with purple eyes and forest green hair and rubbery-see-through face and hands.
Bartleby Willard, who writes himself and who for some reason has described himself into such an awkward and implausible being — one that seems like the scribbling colorings of a child who, clutching crayon like dagger, attacks the hollow figure with reckless zigs and zags. (Bartleby’s suit is colored in in that jagged, inconsistent way; his hair is a bit loopier — like the toddler colorist here imagined lost gusto at cartoon Bartleby’s outlined hair [classic rockabilly: parted on the right with a great swooping mass resembling a curling skunk’s tail above and dipping into the tall wide forehead] and — looking away from the page — circled a loosely held forest-green crayon around a couple times in the vicinity of the cartoon hair || and now mark this sloppiness: strokes of gray bleed into his black shoes and his see-through hands and neck; loops of green mar the top of his head. And everywhere he goes, these crayon-lines bleed into our wholesome solid reallikeseriouslytotallyreal-world).
Bartleby Willard is pacing to and fro in place: arms behind back, he takes one half-step forward, then quick-steps lag-foot to meet lead-foot and — raising only his heels — quick-pivots around to face the direction he just arrived from; he then takes a half-step back to where the iteration began; and repeat …
The character is exhibiting all the symptoms of “heavy distress”. Witness how he colors his flat-chested, narrow-shouldered self: unkempt: flippant crayon-colors executed with a scratchy slashy, madcap hand. And then analyse his gait: quickly pacing to and fro like preoccupied people do; but in a tiny tiny space, as if to scream to the heavens: “I am trapped! I am trapped! I am trapped here!”
And do the others help? Does anyone help him? Who throws him a smile? Who hints him a subtle, unobtrusive, forgive-and-forget understanding? Who leans slightly forward while slightly squatting, puts hands to knees, and makes a flat leaning platform of shoulders and back to share Bartleby’s burden? Who remembers him in their prayers — not just formally, but heartfelt? Who cares about Bartleby Willard, one more would-be-author in this monstrous, heavy-breathing would-be-world? No one here; no one there.
He’s moved frantically from the near-fore to the near-aft and back again over and over in the two places where one would’ve thought he might find a sympathetic soul: (1) The Skullvalley After Whistletown Building, where Tun Whistletown and Arch Skullvalley rule their vast publishing empire with debonair negligence and Kempt Whistletown lovingly — albeit a little distantly, glumly even — engineers various publishing-related contraptions; and (2) The Hall of the Mountain King, where Amber Whistletown sulkily awaits his interview with the Mountain King.
“What’s the matter with Bartleby?” asks Thundration (“Tun”) while, tube-arms folded across plank-torso, he — long neck leaning one way, sharp chin jutting forward and stretching opposite way, small eyes and pursed lips bunched together around some common irony — gazes out one of the several floor-to-ceiling windows lining the eastern wall of the SAW Bookmakers common office.
Of these windows: windows that one and all overlook and give witness to the East River’s melt into the Upper Bay: the bottom of the channel they call a river draining into the top of a bulge they call a bay, which so-called bay will quickly hiccup through a narrow, gush out a widening, and then fall forever into the slosh-tufting immensity of the North Atlantic || keep well in mind that these particular waters have been long coddled: they spent many a slow, shallow, sunbaked day in that great unseaworthy wading pool called “Long Island Sound”: keep that in mind as you assess their fate and, for wisdom-is-compassion’s sake, contemplatively mingle your lots with theirs.
“The boy’s worried he doesn’t know what Pure Love is — says he can’t be a Pure Love manufacturer, importer, exporter, marketer, and/or salesman if he doesn’t even know what it is to love everyone with an infinitely kind and effective love.” replies Archangelbert (“Arch”) while handing a very small “M” with two tiny MickeyMouse-like feet to a word-centipede comprised of “R E A S O”. Arch is on his blue-jeaned knees, supporting himself with one long, bow-fingered hand as he leans down and forward to the eager word-creature, or — seen from a little wider layer — eager letter-community comprised of eager letters with identity-overlaps and -subsumings akin to eager ants in their eager ant colonies. Each letter of the word-centipede is about the size of a small pink eraser like you used to have in your cartoon-themed pencil case.
Kempt sits in a sturdy wooden chair in this clearing (all the desks are pushed against the wall opposite the entrance door) on the southwestern end of the SAWB common office’s beautiful cross-hatch, Celtic-arena flooring (well, it was beautiful! Before all that scraping of heavy square-legged oaken desks!). He wears square-cut but not-baggy light-beige canvas slacks (a little frayed along the bottom edges) and a black T-shirt with a bold gold lion face in puffy-ink on the front (I don’t know where he got that shirt).
Leaning forward, resting slight forearms on slender thighs, Kempt watches entranced as his newest invention — these small, living, breathing, relatively intelligent letter-units/word-centipedes — wander around the floor, dropping and picking up letters to form new words and — in much weaker, more spread-out, visibly-wobbling bonds — simple sentences. Conceiving of and creating life and watching that life slowly find its way has put Kempt in a very zen place; he’s even stopped yelling at Arch for giving the poor little things the wrong letters, which confuses them.
“What?” Tun bursts, his too-long too-thin too-tubular arms and legs flying out, forming a much too-long and too-drawn-out X in front of the window that overlooks the courthouse with Washington’s swearing-in statue. “Whoever told him that Skullvalley After Whistletown Booksellers Extraordinaire needs to understand the whats-its and hoo-zaps it unloads on the hapless hopeless folk!? They don’t care what they’re swilling — just so long as they’re swilling! Bring ’em the trough and clear out!”
“I know — that’s what I sez: I sez, Bartleby, whip-snapp — that’s fast-slang for whipper snapper — look BW, wisni, I sez: at SAWB Bookbinders Spectacular we sell things; we don’t dry ourselves out on fancy pants worries like oohh I don’t know what I’m sell’in or ooohh, I don’t know how what I’m sell’in’s gonna impact the ooohhh people!”
Kempt said nothing as he watched “I” and “don’t” wander towards “understand”, which in turn gave a little jump of surprised joy and then dashed to join the duo — for to say something, to get something of their chests, to speak it out loud and clear.
So Bartleby spins.
And here ends that story and its time — its merry, oom pah pahing, pale beer frothing out of clanked metal steins, heavy chested girls in uplifting bodices wide-mouthed and head-tossed laugh-howling, worried little magicians in black cloaks and black stovepipe hats stooped on busy street corners and peering through narrowed eyes that flicker-hesitate and then lunge from side to side, giant wooden ships sloshing into a square-stone harbor and tumbling out unkempt adventurous lads like a leather dice-shaking cup rolling out a game of dice, smooth-bellied zebras zigzagging through the tall pipelike grasses time.
Well, actually; because things are never as simple as they start out declaring themselves; and so, all in all,: hard to say. You see, this basically funloving frolicsome fretting happened a bit ago; directly thereafter Bartleby Willard and Amble Whistletown, disheartened, once again dispersed, fleeing with their separate vessels (actually, Bartleby jumped on the back of a sea serpent) to their separate seas; but now, well now I’m not quite sure what they are up to or what the current mood of this, our blessed project — the manufacture of letters and love — is.
What, I wonder, does a Pure Love salesman confess to?
“I’m up in the attic, looking through the musty trunks, hoping to find an heirloom to pawn or a conversation piece to parade. I’m wishing through the ravages of war and its compromises: the soft white flesh that seemed so inviolate before everything was sudsy dishpan water flung into the air. Pure Love for sale! Pure Love for sale? Here, give me a fiver and I’ll give you not just the promise that it’ll all be alright, but the holy stuff that runs through our hearty heathy skirmishes and squeamishes! Yes, the hissing bustling contraption over there squirts out dollop after dollop of infinite joy, infinite kindness, infinite potential, and infinite redemption! And so I grow rich on the back of God Itself! What’s to confess? Who’ll condemn or forgive one who takes from the unbounded Good? With my riotous potions, I’ve left all portions behind; beyond both law and lawlessness, no eternal judge can e’er measure me for the final fitting; so as a phantom imagined in a child’s mind vanishes when that child grows beyond his childish superstitions, I vanish beyond myself: I supernova into nothingness, and Nothing becomes my name. Was I wrong? Was I right? But I wasn’t even like that: I was just telling you a joke I’d heard along the concrete white sparkling edge of the curving dam. Hold back deep waters, mighty suburban dam! Keep them frigid at your inkwell floor and mild on the rippling, scatter, sunning surface. … Or am I wrong? Do I clank and clap, march in place, make band out of mother’s pots — not for fun or earnest reflection, but to hide a fault? Oh, confess me to myself, You who know what I’ve become!”
Author: BW; editor: AMW; copyright: AMW
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[Update November 2021: Forget about this! It’s from Before! Not from Now! Why is it even here still?]
For the nonsubscriber: Above is the start of the third fictionish writing in Bartleby’s Diary of an Adamant Lover. For more on this book and what all else’s going on in this blog, see the words beneath these words. To skip formalities and let the passion for consumption drive you headlong into our seller’s net: Buy the Books/Chapter
About this project:[
We’re letting Bartleby write his book; we’re even publishing it for him; it is two loosely bound sketchbooks:
(1) Love at a Reasonable Price: Stories of his magically timeless time here at Wandering Albatross Press interspersed with writings from that time or from now but somehow connected to that time–stories about manufacturing, marketing, distributing, and selling Pure Love;
(2) Diary of an Adamant Lover: Stories of his current time here all alone with the quiet squeaking floorboards and the rats thumping in the ceiling: Stories of his cries for help in the ruins of Wandering Albatross Press, the black and dark time after the hope and before the answer. We’re splitting it into two sections: Biographical (writings that mostly relate the current movements of BW, AMW, and the rest of the WAP gang are ex) and Essayish (writings that mostly stay within a certain thought entertained and cultivated by the author and/or his editor).
You can also find the most recent posting of each book by clicking on the appropriate Category (Categories are on the right hand side of this blog).
This blog will consist of extracts from the book’s chapters as they are released into the lumiferous aether. You can buy BW’s book as he writes it here. You can also consider this blog a long advertisement for Wandering Albatross Press’s some-such-several wonderful products; like . You can also view this blog as it’s own thing–a good unto itself–and as such a sweet, chaste little kiss running through the infomaterous aether (the theory of a lumiferous ether through which electromagetic waves move is no longer widely accepted and its originators all long dead; it is very much in the public domain and so publishing houses, such as the beautiful WAP, can use it any way they please). But insofar as this is a commercial venture, we still need it fundamentally grounded not in profit-motive, but in kind delight. So cross your fingers for us; say a prayer for us; keep a gentle but stern, a wary but hopeful eye on us. Help us to try. Or at least let us try.
Author: Bartleby Willard, fictional character
Copyright holder/editor: Andrew Mackenzie Watson (of the Sand Springs Watsons)