Monday, April 4, 2011

Lost Work

I lost my essay on Chris Hedge’s indictment of the beats and surrealists in his recent publication Death Of The Liberal Class[which has since been recovered, thanks to Robert Mittenthal, and reposted; see above]. I found a link that took me directly to the edit page at my blog, deleted my Hedge’s essay (“Say What?!!”), and pasted in a new posting. When I noticed after I had made my new post that the date had not changed, I realized my mistake. I hadn’t made a separate file for that essay, don’t know why, no excuse for that, and looked to see if it had been saved as an “edit”at the blog. It had not. It was gone.

I apologize to anyone that may have gone looking for it. Though the most important information in it were two excerpts from Herbert Marcuse’s essay, “Art As Form Of Reality.” That was really the heart of the essay.

Out of curiosity, I went looking on the internet for articles or information about lost manuscripts. I remembered reading somewhere that the poet Jackson MacLow, one of my favorite poets, had lost a manuscript on the New York subway. I have no idea how I would deal with such a loss. I hope that MacLow’s involvement in Buddhist philosophy proved of some benefit.

A Wikipedia entry titled (aptly) “Lost Work,” popped up immediately.

I was surprised at the number of lost manuscripts listed at the Wikipedia site. Not so surprised about the number of lost work from ancient Greece, but very surprised to see so much missing from the Old and New Testaments of the Judeo-Christian bible. Things I had never heard of: Book of Samuel the Seer, History of Nathan the Prophet, Acts of Uziah, Gospel of the Four Heavenly Realms, Gospel of the Seventy, Gospel of the Twelve, and the Secret Gospel of Mark, “written for an initiated elite.”

I have long had fantasies of the discovery of a steamer trunk or wooden box in Harar, Ethiopia or farm in the Ardennes containing poetry by Arthur Rimbaud. So I was surprised to see a listing for a lost notebook of poems that Arthur had, presumably, lent, or entrusted, to a schoolmate. I wonder if he worried that his mother would discover it, and so had entrusted it to his buddy, whose parents might be a little more liberal than Arthur’s stern mother.

I have also long had fantasies of biographical or - better yet - autobiographical work concerning Shakespeare. I did discover a listing for a lost play, Love’s Labour’s Won, presumably a sequel to Love’s Labour Lost. Also, an Ur-Hamlet, written by Thomas Kyd.

Another later play attributed to Shakespeare, The History of Cardenio, was known to have been performed by The King’s Men, a London theatre company, in 1613. It was attributed to William Shakespeare and John Fletcher in 1653 in a Stationer’s Register entry by the bookseller Humphry Mosley. Mosley, however, had falsely used Shakespeare’s name in other such entries, so the authenticity of this listing is dubious.

A lot of Incan quipu were destroyed by the louts that were the Spanish Conquistadores. The quipus, also called (wonderfully) “talking knots,” were recording devices which consisted of colored, spun, and plied thread or strings from llama or alpaca hair. Information was encoded by knots in a base ten positional system. Each quipu might have from a few to as many as 2,000 cords.

Speaking of conquistadores, there is also an interesting story about several missing pages in Herzog’s Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes. The pages were thrown from the window of a bus after one of Herzog’s football team-mates threw up on them.

Maybe the oral traditions got it right. You can’t lose something stored in your brain. Unless, of course, you lose your brain. Losing your mind is one thing, but losing your brain is another. The idea is to share your knowledge with other people. Pass it on. That way, nothing gets lost. Work is transmitted by tongue and ear. Far more reliable than pixel and paper.

Or talking knot.

3 comments:

David Grove said...

And what if you found Hemingway's lost briefcase? It'd be like finding the Q source for the Gospels.

The word verification is hickfult. I wonder if anyone has made a poem out of word verification words...

John Olson said...

What if I found Hemmingway's lost hickfult?

A poem made of verification words (printed, of course, in the way they appear, like melted wax, or paint running down, or hallucianted) would be quite intriguing. Best neologisms I have encountered lately have all been at Spencer Selby's site, Ames Alt Research. They're not only weird, but sound weirdly authentic. Like real words. Belonging to some sort of hyper-English.

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