Fragments of the Lost Library

Chris Petit, “Fragments of the Lost Library,” Museum of Loneliness website 2013

The Answer to Life is No by Anonymous (1960, Rupert Hart-Davis)

Blaming by Elizabeth Taylor (1976, Chatto and Windus)

Negative Space by Manny Farner (1971, Studio Vista)

A Voyage in Vain by Alethea Hayter (1973, Faber)

Nothing by Henry Green (1950, Viking Press)

Exquisite Pain by Sophie Calle (2005, Thames and Hudson)

Let me Alone by Anna Kavan (1974, Peter Owen)

The Greater Infortune by Rayner Heppenstall; dedicated to Muriel Spark (1960, Peter Owen)

The Secret of Evil by Roberto Bolaño (2012, New Directions)

A Sense of Guilt by Georges Simenon (1955, Hamish Hamilton)

She Was the Poem

William Gaddis, The Recognitions, 1955

It was through this imposed accumulation of chaos that she struggled to move now, beyond it lay simplicity, unmeasurable residence of perfection, where nothing was created, where originality did not exist: because it was origin; where once she was there work and thought in causal and stumbling sequence did not exist but only transcription: where the poem she knew but could not write existed, ready-formed, awaiting recovery in that moment when the writing down of it was impossible: because she was the poem.

[See Dylan Nice and Vladimir Nabokov.]

The Time of its Being Furthered

Ben Lerner, Leaving the Atocha Station, 2011: 90-91

I put down the book and began to think: this strange experience of reading, the sense of harmony between the rhythms of a reproduction and the real, their structural identity, so that the subject of the sentence was precisely the time of its being furthered — this was what I valued in one of the only people I described as a “major poet” without irony, John Ashbery. … Reading an Ashbery sentence, an elaborate sentence stretched over many lines, one felt the arc and feel of thinking in the absence of thoughts. … The “it” in an Ashbery poem seemed ultimately to refer to the mysteries of the poem itself. … The best Ashbery poems, I thought, although not in these words, describe what it’s like to read an Ashbery poem; his poems refer to how their reference evanesces. And when you read about your reading in the time of your reading, mediacy is experienced immediately. It is as though the actual Ashbery poem were concealed from you, written on the other side of a mirrored surface, and you saw only the reflection of your reading. But by reflecting your reading, Ashbery’s poems allow you to attend to your attention, to experience your experience, thereby enabling a strange kind of presence. But it is a presence that keeps the virtual possibilities of poetry intact because the true poem remains behind you, inscribed on the far side of the mirror: “You have it but you don’t have it. / You miss it, it misses you. / You miss each other.”

Making It Less

Joan Didion, “The Art of Fiction N° 71” by Linda Kuehl, The Paris Review Fall-Winter 1978

I start a book and I want to make it perfect, want it to turn every color, want it to be the world. Ten pages in, I’ve already blown it, limited it, made it less, marred it. That’s very discouraging. I hate the book at that point. After a while I arrive at an accommodation: Well, it’s not the ideal, it’s not the perfect object I wanted to make, but maybe — if I go ahead and finish it anyway — I can get it right next time. Maybe I can have another chance.