Speculations Concerning the Source of Certain Unidentified Manuscripts
By noon the pencil had written 18,341 sentences, not including this one. Naturally,
people begin to read them. Some like what they read. The pencil creates a following. It
signs contracts for television appearances. It honors none of them. It declares itself
independent. Nevertheless, someone must be responsible. Lawyers are hired. Sentence
after sentence rolls onto the paper in a steady stream of creation. There is no pause longer
than a period or a dash. Paragraphs have been totally bypassed. The pencil’s amorous life
sharpens in proportion to the dullness of its point. Having become quite dedicated to its
work, it has time for a pencil sharpener only as one is both easily accessible and
necessary to help maintain the ceaseless quality of its work. Due to its increasing fame,
the mere touch of its fiber is enough to send any but the most rusty sharpener spinning
frantically in an orgasm of wood and lead. It leaves them spinning and returns to its work.
None but the most avid of the pencil’s admirers are capable of detecting any pause at all.
They begin to argue among themselves. None seem very confident about their ability to
detect this most valued moment in the life of their idol. They begin talking of the good
old days. Some people begin to worry about the meaning of all this. The pencil’s true
followers, of course, do not. Others claim to have been doubtful from the beginning.
The pencil’s work continues. Little used words (eructate, tatterdemalion, ziggurat) are
masterfully placed. Punctuation becomes so accurate that a favorite pastime is
discovering errors. Of course, none are ever discovered, but people refuse to give up
hope. More contracts are signed. Everyone knows they will not be honored. It doesn’t
matter. Any trace of the pencil becomes valuable. Radically differing marks on various
articles (napkins, toilet paper, walls, hands) are claimed as autographs. Verification of
pencil marks becomes an argumentative and profitable science with an ever-increasing
following. Various theories are proposed in regard to the pencil’s refusal to use
paragraphs. Conferences are held. Books are written. New courses are offered in graduate
schools. The word “pencilness” enters the English language and quickly spreads to other
language groups. The quality of various products is rated in terms of the gradations of
pencil lead. “How do you like it?” “3H.” “It does have a certain pencilness about it,
doesn’t it.” To call someone “pointed,” “woody,” or “leaded” becomes an extreme
compliment. The pencil learns the art of condensation. More and more is said in less and
less space. Reading between the lines is necessary. A few people claim to have detected
hesitation in the pencil’s work. No one believes them. The pencil’s new work is a surprise
to everyone. They find it harder and harder to believe there is anything left to write about.
Skeptics predict the date of the pencil’s downfall. Fortunes are won and lost as the pencil
continues writing. Faith in the pencil’s stability returns. “Pencilness” gains connotations
of endurance as well as quality. Pencil T-shirts and lunchboxes become popular. A few
intellectuals claim the meaning of the pencil’s work has been devalued by the embrace of
common acceptance. The pencil continues writing. And then one day a very large
building falls down and everyone remembers how it was such a fine building that they
kept trying to make it taller and taller until you couldn’t see where it ended even on a
clear day and one of the newspapers has a contest in which everyone gets a chance to
guess how many stories are in the building, but nobody gets it right, not even the pencil
falling a page at a time from the top of the lost building . . .
Fiction. Modern Abstract Fables.
(First edition, hardcover with dustjacket, 524 pages, $36.50 USD.)
Tunneling to the Moon: A Psychological Gardener’s Book of Days draws from fairy tales, a condescending of a 1938 Social Studies reader for 6th grade, an 1890 handbook on marital compatibility, numerous annoying educational advancement studies, the myths and legends of third-world countries and minority peoples, pulp fiction, a history of carnival side shows, folktales, frequent conversations with Crows, Owls and a wide variety of underground inhabitants, insects and the people who collect them, Joseph Cornell, Günter Eich, Russell Edson, the French Surrealist poets, the Quay Brothers, letterpress printing, and the author’s inability to channel his imagination linearly.
Begin from the beginning, catch up, read daily. Just refer to the Burrow Guide.