The Frame Gallery, short story – 27 June 2016

The frame above the fireplace has been empty for many years. A gilded artificial vernier, plastic with the finish of cured oak. It was well-worn, splintered along the holdspiece, cracked along the horizontal centerpiece. From a distance and in the proper light, you could mistake it for the real world, the world going on behind and beyond the empty spaces.

I left a candle just beneath it to highlight the imitation wood, the candle topped with a lanterns glass, glowing dome. I hang another on the nail above the patio, sometimes it’s placement on the lookout over the grounds framed it well.

I keep the little feeding trays, the red nectar left out for the Ruby-throated hummingbird, and sometimes a ruby thrush, darker than the hummingbird or bluebird, and when it lands on the string of electric cables running between the power grids.

I have to be in the right place for the frame to hold it together. There were hints of nail polish dabbled about the patches of naked tin beneath the varnish. It would be replaced, yes, perhaps on the patio in the shadow of Appalachia.

Perhaps the veranda? The pagoda under tatty umbrellas that always unfurled with a smattering of dust and the murmur of rustling polyester. Or the vegetable garden, Peabody had liked it there. The curator’s oft-quipping parakeet. I had been in the crypt of the Roland family, where the mother and her husband lay, ancestors to the current curator ; someday his son would heat the boilers and flip the generators in the morning.

I was set to curate the drawing room, and had ventured to the vaults below because of this strange knocking. Like a heart beat against wood. It was a haggard heart beat, coming from an anonymous, standing casket. I remember being nervous in the dark, leaning against the thin plywood. It startled him, but intrigued by the patter and not morbidly, he opened it up and out flew the parakeet, my sweet Canary!

The foyer was appointed with upholstery from the turn of the 1 9th century, fine cushions and settee, an upright piano in the floor gallery. It was silent now, save for the tinkling to be heard as Peabody came in upon the keys from an open window. The foyer, the fore-room and antechamber to the soup room at the base of the polished marble stairs barred by a simple velvet tassel, knotted and folded and pulled.

The Gallery once had fine recreations adorning the show piece of the gabled Manor home-Turner’s slaveship, a replica of Rembrandt’s famously stolen Storm on the Sea of Galilee – like the famous heist up north where the genuine article, Rembrandt’s storm, was cut from its frame along with works of Monet and Degas. Sketches by Velazquez and Delacroix, and all of them were taken that same night Rembrandt’s seascape disappeared from that insured gallery.

For all that is not there, it is amusing, thought the curator, those wonderful works long gone has its place held by the frame it was torn from. That gallery, there and quite famous, famous for all that’s no longer there, perhaps better known for their taking than their beauty. The empty frame is there, holding a spot at the table for ghosts.

My empty frames, and I’ve 3 now, but I’ve no heart to fill them with the donations that come in. Poor works by local artists come in often and I ship them out to the historic center for framing. The one that arrived briefly before an author, tall and gaunt and followed by a slender brunette, carrying paintings under her arm. When I pulled up to my convex lens and looked over the dedication. The first was an obvious flattery of this young woman before me.

The painting was lovely in the right light – but more the face, that painting a poor imitation but nevertheless awkward, as she was withdrawn into herself, perhaps uncomfortable with carrying the idealized portrait of her as a Satyr with soft horns and softer hair, dark brown with a hint of welcoming garnet and ever softer before smearing into white, a highlight giving shape to her soft countenance. The Satyr in the painting a face as warm as the color of milk and just as sweet. There was love, yes. Peabody squawked.

I sat it against the wall and looked at the second work she held. Much smaller, and much louder and desperate – this little origami figure, outlined in hasty charcoal but it blurred just right into the dark beneath the sun, a sweltering, having transmission tower, dwarfing the little ragged figures whose outlines were suggested with studied passion. At the end of a sidewalk a child bounded forward, off into the blur of the great Sun. But as I attached my convex lens, I saw the writing along the edges. The elderly move more slowly, the curator thought, retracing the panic of the first outline in this small painting… An apology? Yes, he does… And he’s going to pay it.
Squawk, squawk, squawk!
You’re right, they both will.

He’d given it to her, that Satyr or wood nymph and I can see it still, though the empty frames at the Rose Hill Historic Site still hang in the event their bodies are found and somehow stuffed back in. The maiden I found to be named Kathryn Hide, and the stand in for the lovely maiden was her portrait. The details come back sweet as spring, and he had not painted it for her, but for himself – because he couldn’t say it with words. Or maybe for her to see herself as he did? Perhaps he painted her to try to hold on in case she left. Yes, of course she will.

When they were out about their tour of the rest of the Manor and plantation, I rearranged my empty frames as to put them together, if briefly, to refill the frame some lonely night with Peabody on the curator’s shoulder, squawking. I do hope we see them again, the Curator thought, and sighed, rising to his feet, weight on his walking cane. Come, let’s go prepare the gallery.

Theatre and Culture, 24 June 2015

 

How Historical Fiction Influences Culture and Identity

Theatre may have started as an organizing force, an excuse for fellowship and ritual in the ancient world, such as what we know of its development in Ancient Greece. At first, it was just for men – and even when there were female characters, they were portrayed by men. Even so, it was a way for a community of shared interests, leading to more than a collection of individuals – culture. That’s a small word, culture. And vague, and hard to use in its broadest sense, in the full scope of what it offers (and what it takes).

It is the sum total of a people, their hopes and values, their fears and regrets. It does more than tie a people together. It forms the basis of a collected consciousness; it gives us heroes to admire and attempt to follow, and villains to despise and, shamefully, get a measure and bit of understanding about the darker side of human nature and ourselves. The collected mythology of a culture is a projection of their unconscious, and through that we get a glimpse into who they were. You can get a better sense of who the English were at the turn of the 16th century through the works of Shakespeare than you can from historians, since historians recount the deeds of the extraordinary, and writers recount the deeds of the ordinary as well and, ironically, it is more extraordinary to read. Shakespeare was able to use the past as a lens to focus on the very real religious schism of his age, something Kip Marlowe would do also do in his Satanic drama in Dr Faustus.

In plundering the more traditional histories recounted in Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles, Shakespeare was able to create an anatomy of the era, examining the lowborn and the high and mighty, giving the newly excommunicated England a sense of who they were and what their stories would be. ‘An island unto itself’ is vaguely reminiscent of Richard III’s line in Act V, Scene VI of Henry VI: ‘I am myself alone.’ Shakespeare did this in a way that Holinshed never could, by making history into something poetic and resonant, and–most importantly–entertaining. This is not to discredit Holinshed; I just couldn’t imagine a crowd of theatre patrons thrilling at the recitation of the following as a dramatic soliloquy:
The situation of our region, lieng ne’ere unto the north, dooth cause the heate of our stomaches to be of somewhat greater force: therefore our bodies doo crave a little more ample nourishment, than the inhabitants of the hotter regions are accustomed withall, whose digestive force is not altogether so vehement.”

The same is true of Homer and Virgil, whose characters and struggles are as revealing as Livy’s formal histories, all of which serve to give us an idea about the character of the age — the people living then and there, as a lot is to be gleaned from the comparisons of Livy’s accounts of the Second Punic War with Polybius’. (Citation: Hannibal’s War by J. F. Lazenby). Homer’s Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid  have long stood in for lack of historical sources, giving us, if not the true account of history as it happened, but, as Graves explains through Livy in I, Claudius: ‘It is important to capture the true spirit, of history, to give life to the characters and people, more than it is to be slavishly devoted to the tedium of dry fact.” Which his companion, Pollio, immediately rebuffs.

Future historians will learn more about the character of Americans in the early 21st century from the books of Jacopo della Quercia than traditional historians, as he has been a part of a resurgent academia that lends itself to humor and is therefore more accessible to lay audiences (including myself). His articles and works, such as The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy and License to Quill, afford us a perspective not possible through traditional histories, and succeed as history and entertainment, offering a unique, rare insight into the character of the modern world–by using the past to look into the character of the age and toward the future, in a manner very analogous to Shakespeare; and in doing so manages to reveal the intrigue and obsessions of the modern world–in an age where we look for the truth in fiction and for the fiction in popular accounts of truth, which is often the case in a culture of conspiracy, which I have linked above for review.

Dry histories, such as those of Holinshead, Polybius, Cassius Dio, and Seutonius will never succeed in the way that Shakespeare’s plays have, or in the same way that Robert Graves’ Claudius books will, which drew from Seutonius’ The Twelve Caesars (itself the subject of much debate about the authenticity of its accounts) and the works of Polybius, Livy, and Cassius Dio, as Robert Graves writes in the foreword to Claudius the God. There is a unique way by which we find truth in fiction, and through finding this truth, either about society or about human nature, it expands our ideas about the past and our place in the present.

These pieces of literature may exist outside our sphere of influence, and are ultimately beyond our control, but when we put those pieces together, from history and entertainment and culture, the end result is a reflection of who we are; it is the building of the mirror, and it is in this reflection, these glimpses into our motivations and desires, our fears and neuroses, the impulses behind our thoughts and beliefs–this is what literally defines us. It is the microcosm, the smaller creature in contrast to the macrocosm, the larger organism that is the culture.

How to Create Conspiracy (Reason, Rhetoric, and the Art of Persuasion) 16 June 2016

The Language of Argumentative Reasoning &
Rhetoric and the Language of Persuasion 

In the proper use of rhetoric, an early idea or notion in a speech or argument must be resolved by the end. This can be done by returning to, and expanding upon, prior notions in an argument toward the end. This tidies up an argument in a satisfying way. It allows for a finality and closure, allowing the primary thrust of an argument to come full circle. That sense of completion and resolution is intellectually and emotionally satisfying.

When a notion remains unresolved the argument may seem unsatisfying or lacking to an audience or jury. Tying a later notion to an earlier idea allows for an audience to follow your reasoning, evaluate the chain that links each successive point, and decide for themselves if the logic behind thet conjecture is sound. Your job as an orator is to make sure that each successive link follows logically from each point to the next in a manner that is understandable and gradual. Rhetoric is the art of persuasion.

For Aristotle, there were three elements of rhetoric necessary for the practice of persuasion as it relates to argument. As Dr. John R. Edlund describes in his essay Ethos, Logos, Pathos: Three Ways to Persuade:

” Aristotle says that if we believe that a speaker has good sense, good moral character, and goodwill, we are inclined to believe what that speaker says. Today we might add that a speaker should also appear to have the appropriate expertise or authority to speak knowledgeably about the subject matter. Ethos is often the first thing we notice, so it creates the first impression that influences how we perceive the rest. Ethos is an important factor in advertising, both for commercial products and in politics.”

The first element is ethos and is important to consider first, as it must establish the image of credibility of the speaker or writer by creating and maintaining an ethical character; the second is pathos, the appeal to emotion and telling pathological characteristics in the specifics of individual notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice, shame and pride; the third is logos, the use of the argument’s own language as the means of persuasion, logic. Only in the fulfillment of each element, Aristotle thought, could rhetoric be considered truly persuasive.

Pathos relies on the amplification feelings known to force someone into a position of choosing honor or shame, into making an amoral decision as opposed to an emotional response. This is important to understand in practicing persuasion, as it relates to creating conspiracy, as appealing to base fears and the sense of pride, by their understanding a unique truth that allows them to rest assured in their own deductive abilities — the best way to convince someone is to give them a way to convince themselves, rely on confirmation bias to run its course, and watch the newly converted. It isn’t always necessary, if the issue hinges on a more morally lax issue; to waste logic on a juror who has built in responses is unnecessary, as logos is not the language of the rhetorical capacity intended for the proud. In such instances, you are dealing with someone for whom proposed or traditional credible sources have failed to persuade them and in response, understandably betrayed, may resort to the persuasion outside of logos, and through ethos they can be more properly persuaded.  Connecting emotionally may help overcome a particularly weak argument, or work to the detriment of an otherwise logically sound narrative.

In the sciences, dispassion and emotional detachment are valued aspects of one’s approach to a proof, in chemistry or physics, for example. But in philosophy and psychology, it is important to show emotional awareness and sensitivity, to make sure someone’s pride is not on the line; to make sure that it does not dishonor or otherwise shame someone to accept a proof, and to err on the side of being humane whenever such questions arise. You will more easily reach someone with a smattering of humanity than with a mountain of intelligence and logic. To insult the intelligence of someone you wish to persuade will do you no favors, and only make a proof that much harder to accept.

On the acceptance of proofs

OF THE SCIENCES PRACTICED BY SCHOLARS AND HISTORIANS, physics is perhaps the most observation based and dependent on empirical data. Proofs in physics without observation data, without an experiment that might replicate the results, or proofs without a means by it may be tested, are considered worse than proofs that are demonstrably wrong. In classical physics, the models and theories were shaped by observation and the tedious collection of data over time. Johannes Kepler published his theory on ellipses in Harmony of the Spheres based on the observation data of another astronomer, the Danish nobleman Tycho Brahe. This would be the first accurate model of the solar system in human history.

In instances where data or observation is impossible, approaches are developed to take probabilities of all possible outcomes into consideration in equations. This is known as the path integral formulation of quantum physics. Classical physics can give definitive answers to questions such as,

If a particle starts at time tA at location A, will it reach location B at time tB? Depending on the particle’s initial velocity and the forces acting on it, the question can be answered. In quantum physics, it’s possible to give the probability that the particle will reach location B at tB. Because of the infinities inherent in probabilities, the sum over histories approach was born, or created rather, to produce valid mathematical proofs.

An invention of American physicist Richard Feynman, path integral is used to calculate quantum mechanical probabilities. To do this, first you consider all the probabilities for the particle traveling from point A to point B. Not just the straight line approach, but all approaches. From the possibility of a particle going through a lethargic stage and making desperate detours to its possibility of going to New York or Rome or Proxima Centauri before going to point B. This seems improbable, sure, but is it improbable that particles will take other paths from point A to point B, and not always straight lines? I don’t think so. After all, between the straight line and the round-about path through New York and Rome there are infinite possibilities. Further, that path may be descriptive but it does not give information about velocities. In short, for the first step, take into account all ways of traveling from A to B, however outlandish they may seem.

The second step is to associate a number with each of these possibilities (not quite the kind of number we’re used to from school, but we will not bother with the difference here). Finally, the numbers associated with all possibilities are added up – some parts of the sum canceling each other, others adding up. (Readers whom this makes think of waves are on the right track – it is an example of an interference phenomenon.) The resulting sum tells us the probability of detecting the particle that started out at A at the location B at the specified time. Physicists call such a sum over all possibilities a path integral or sum over histories.

Calculating such path integrals can be tricky, in particle physics, for example; there, theories are combination of quantum theory and special relativity. Path integrals are an important tool to calculate the probability of particles interacting in a given way. In order to do this, you have to use a time coordinate (t), assigning a time coordinate gives an extra factor (i) – the “imaginary unit”, an algebraic symbol that squares to minus one, i2=1. The resulting pair i·t is sometimes called imaginary time. After a path integral calculation, you reverse the substitution.

This might seem arbitrary and implausible but it has the added benefit of transforming a time coordinate with a special coordinate, which is how it works to give the right answers with Feynman’s approach. An exact proof was found by two mathematicians: Konrad Osterwalder from Switzerland and Robert Schrader from Germany. Their theorem showed that the properties of a quantum theory formulated in the space-time of general relativity can indeed be reconstructed exactly by using Feynman’s recipe on an imaginary-time axis of that same space-time.

Proofs in other areas of academia are not as precise or obvious. Problems in philosophy are never solved to everyone’s satisfaction. Questions on ethics and morality, of good and evil, and anything else in the realm of metaphysics – it is unlikely these questions will ever be satisfactorily defined or proven in a way that would be accepted in the same manner as the above mathematical proof. Whether there is a god or if there is good and evil, these questions have been around as long as questions have been asked.

It is through reason that arguments are settled. And only temporarily then, as they will be asked again. This will be dedicated to the methods of argumentative reasoning more than to advocating for one answer over another. Argumentative reasoning is split into four necessary elements: connection, correlation, conjecture, and conclusion. The connection stage is how you connect your two subjects, showing that the overall idea is based on the logical inferences drawn at each stage when presented with new information. The second step, correlation, is the demonstration of why two subjects are connected. The meaning behind events linking them together, how this reinforces the overarching point, and how it allows for you to present the conjecture that allows for your conclusion.

Conjecture is the part of your case where you argue the evidence. In legal terms, it is the defense’s final summation, or final argument, and it lets them present their inferences, based on the evidence, as part of a reasonable inference from that reference. There is more license in this area, as it is more the story of the evidence than a recapitulation of it. That’s a popular way of refreshing a jury of the main points without going into too much detail, condensing it and making it easier to be pigeonholed in someone’s memory. This is where you tell the story of your own discovery, of how you came to the conclusion you have, and why it precludes any other conclusion.

A conclusion is something that must proceed logically from the conjecture. It allows you to show the stages from the first step of connection and the final step. A conclusion is what everything else is in service to: all of the steps and foundational ideas within the connection and correlation, as surmised in the conjecture. This is your point, the main thrust, and the popular way of doing this in legal terms, again, is in the final summation, or final argument, as well as a way of preempting possible questions and unresolved issues that run contrary to your interpretation of the evidence.

Those are the four main steps in argumentative reasoning as it applies to constructing an academic argument. The point, for me, behind this paper is to demonstrate the methods of constructing and sustaining a conspiracy; the creation of a conspiracy theory follows each one of these four steps very deftly: first the connection, then the correlation, the conjecture, and finally the conclusion. Embedded in the conjecture should be a preemptive answer or deterrent to points important to the proof;

First, anticipate and prepare for detractions. An active deterrent built into the logic of the conjecture will have a longstanding effect on questions as it relates to proof, negating the best attempts at discrediting an argument. Attempts to preempt difficult questions as pertaining to your conclusion are vital points to build into the logic, especially in conspiracy. In case after case, you need to prepare for any and all attempts to pick apart the logic of your argument. ‘The Man’ is disseminating false information; a fundamental establishment as a source of truth is abolished, as that establishment may urge conclusions to the contrary of your own. ‘They’ don’t want the truth to get out. This makes an idea bullet-proof if successful, because it shuts down objections before they can be used and allows you to dictate the flow of the debate. It is of monumental importance in argumentative reasoning to discredit and preempt objections to your arguments. There is much to learn from this type of couched deterrent, one that is prominently built into the logic of conjecture.

In presenting an argument, the first point of business is to rehash and recapitulate the facts as you know a jury to know. Thereby getting them to side with you in the first series of agreements, because it means agreeing, first, with themselves. You need juror empathy, acknowledgement of credible sources, and a shared standard for the measure of truth as it relates to proof. In a legal case, this can be done as a general summation, outlining what you know the jury has seen, detail major points in the abstract – to reinforce important points, points that have empirical proofs, in measurement, for example, or any a demonstrable way.

It is through reason that arguments are settled. And only temporarily then, as they will be asked again. This will be dedicated to the methods of argumentative reasoning more than to advocating for one answer over another. Argumentative reasoning is split into four necessary elements: connection, correlation, conjecture, and conclusion. The connection stage is how you connect your two subjects, showing that the overall idea is based on the logical inferences drawn at each stage when presented with new information. The second step, correlation, is the demonstration of why two subjects are connected. The meaning behind events linking them together, how this reinforces the overarching point, and how it allows for you to present the conjecture that allows for your conclusion.

          Conjecture is the part of your case where you argue the evidence. In legal terms, it is the defense’s final summation, or final argument, and it lets them present their inferences, based on the evidence, as part of a reasonable inference from that reference. There is more license in this area, as it is more the story of the evidence than a recapitulation of it. That’s a popular way of refreshing a jury of the main points without going into too much detail, condensing it and making it easier to be pigeonholed in someone’s memory. This is where you tell the story of your own discovery, of how you came to the conclusion you have, and why it precludes any other conclusion.

          A conclusion is something that must proceed logically from the conjecture. It allows you to show the stages from the first step of connection and the final step. A conclusion is what everything else is in service to: all of the steps and foundational ideas within the connection and correlation, as surmised in the conjecture. This is your point, the main thrust, and the popular way of doing this in legal terms, again, is in the final summation, or final argument, as well as a way of preempting possible questions and unresolved issues that run contrary to your interpretation of the evidence.

          Those are the four main steps in argumentative reasoning as it applies to constructing an academic argument. The point, for me, behind this paper is to demonstrate the methods of constructing and sustaining a conspiracy; the creation of a conspiracy theory follows each one of these four steps very deftly: first the connection, then the correlation, the conjecture, and finally the conclusion. Embedded in the conjecture should be a preemptive answer or deterrent to points important to the proof;

          First, anticipate and prepare for detraction. An active deterrent built into the logic of the conjecture will have a longstanding effect on questions as it relates to proof, negating the best attempts at discrediting an argument. Attempts to preempt difficult questions as pertaining to your conclusion are vital points to build into the logic, especially in conspiracy. In case after case, you need to prepare for any and all attempts to pick apart the logic of your argument. ‘The Man’ is disseminating false information; a fundamental establishment as a source of truth is abolished, as that establishment may urge conclusions to the contrary of your own. ‘They’ don’t want the truth to get out. This makes an idea bullet-proof if successful, because it shuts down objections before they can be used and allows you to dictate the flow of the debate. It is of monumental importance in argumentative reasoning to discredit and preempt objections to your arguments. There is much to learn from this type of couched deterrent, one that is prominently built into the logic of conjecture.

In the language of legal argument 

In the Kennedy assassination, conspiracies began before the body was even back in Washington at Bethesda Medical Hospital. It is a violent, random act; the suggestion that chaos rules over the everyday lives of men and women is a bit much, and replacing chaos with something planned and precise gives us a type of comfort, a type of comfort we’d never have in knowing that anyone, including the most powerful and beloved people on Earth, can lose their lives so publicly and violently. It’s understandable [in the JFK case] to bend toward conspiracy, as most of the American population does. If someone, acting alone, can kill the president, does that not make one uneasy in their own lives, unassured by the safety traditional law enforcement provides? Of course it does. A conspiracy gives meaning where there is none, but where it is badly needed.

          Vincent Bugliosi is a famed lawyer and non-fiction author, best known for his public prosecution of Charles Manson – popularizing the Helter Skelter aspects of those killings – and his true crime novels, Outrage, about the acquittal of OJ Simpson, and Reclaiming History – about the conspiracies surrounding the JFK assassination. In one of his public appearances after the book’s release, he gave a speech at the 5th floor museum in Dallas. At the beginning, he put forth two statements that must be true in order to think intelligently about an issue:

          You must be aware of both sides of a story, first and foremost,

          And you must read, for yourself, any document that other documents purport to discredit.

          His next point was to ask, “How many of you have seen the Oliver Stone film JFK? A lot of hands go up.

          “Now, how many of you have read The Warren Commission?”

          Very few hands remain up.

          “Now, can you think intelligently about an issue without hearing both sides?”

          It’s a very precise demonstration of the built-in biases we all have towards official reports. The Warren Commission is couched in legal language, and can extremely long and exhaustive for the most attentive reader. Such a document is probably not suited for popular entertainment, even an abridged version would leave out too much that is necessary. The Oliver Stone film is exciting and dramatic, full of memorable images and quotes, and it follows the four steps of argumentative reasoning very closely. The first step is the connection and then correlation of events, with a correlation that suits the conjecture and ultimately the conclusion.

          The idea of couching rebuttals and anticipatory in the argument is important for the longevity of an idea. In the vernacular of conspiracy theory, you have surely noticed, there is always some element painted as inherently untrustworthy. Such as official, government reports in conspiracy and scientific instruments of measurement and observation in religion. The success of religion and the propagation of conspiracy are interchangeable, as both provide a human comfort, a comfort that inhuman instruments have traditionally been unable to confer.

          In religious writing, refuting possible objections before they arise is a common practice. It’s something that is conversely practiced in legal argument, the anticipation of objections and their preemptive refutation, and when done properly these anticipatory remarks can do damage to an opponent’s case before they have a chance to argue their interpretation of the evidence in conjecture.

          In reason, there must be reconciliation of irrationalities. In number theory, pi is considered an irrational number because ultimately it doesn’t roll over, instead spiraling on into forever. This has led to a lot of work in number theory, and the intention is to reconcile irrationality. The same is true in rhetoric, whereby the returning to an earlier idea toward the end of a phrase ties it together, rationalizing the statement and giving it a completeness. You see this in literature a lot, often in the form of recurring themes and symbols. Early in a text you may have unresolved elements intentionally left open by an author, which encourages participation on behalf of the reader, allowing them to reconcile open threads of thought ret to be resolved by the author.

 

Poetry, the Waltz & Open Ellipses – 3 June 2016

 

The musical quality of language in verse and prose 

Before I began writing seriously, as in for money, I was more inclined towards music. I enjoyed playing the guitar and my slightly-shit electric piano. I knew what a waltz was, in music at least, but I never imagined that this tempo, this recurring punctuation in threes, could be used to craft a musical connotation to literature. That changed when I read Naked Lunch for the first time.

          An ellipse in literature requires a broad explanation. First, an ellipse in language relies on the assumption of a present transverse or transitional glide, so you can leave them out to keep the waltz type meter in your work, and when this is done, the words are implied and the ellipse is open. An open ellipse in English is equal to leaving out prepositions and relationship establishing words, such as in a third person singular present indicative, such as ‘is’ (n.)

          In British English it is common to say, ‘She was in hospital for days.’ While in American English the ellipse is closed by providing past tense singular indicatives: ‘She was in the hospital.’ The British English sentence contains an open ellipse, while its American counterpart closes the ellipse by supplying definitive article ‘the.’ In this case, the closes the ellipse.

          ‘The’ is an external possessive adjective and is used before singular or plural nouns which denote reference transition. Without the definitive article, without such notation or reference transition, the ellipse remains open. In the closing of an ellipse you fill in what would otherwise be representations of obvious words which can be put to a noun as a modifier. Of course, adjectives can modify nouns and identify nouns as well.

          One of the most famous authors to use open ellipses in the modern era is William S. Burroughs, and Naked Lunch, as I’ve said, is what made me understand the nature of the open ellipse and the closed ellipse. To show how he was able to maintain this pattern, I will denote each sentence from the opening segment with an [x] which will also show words that would close the ellipse. It is a famous opening and it changed the way I viewed the possibilities of literature. In a sense, I learned that expression had no rules [x) and that (x) art was not bound by custom or rules of what art is supposed to be. For Victorian purists, the next line of prose may well drive you crazy. That’s what makes it so wonderful. Like Rothko, to baffle was the point: because when you’re baffled, you’re either forced to think, or walk away–and that’s exactly what the author, and painter, respectively, wish for you to do. Think or walk away.

          The opening of Naked Lunch was originally a “naughty present” from my oldest step brother, Daniel. He thought he had given me the equivalent of a Penthouse. And as I read the book, I saw the profanity, I saw an urban sprawl where people were sold and, to make it worse, wished to be sold. I didn’t think the homosexual parts seemed to be anymore profane than any other descriptions I had read. I mean, when it comes to love making in literature, Burroughs is no Hemingway–but he never tries to be. He can write in any style he’d wish, but he chose to write the opening to his masterpiece in this form. Once again, omitted words that are implied, whose inclusion would close an opened ellipse, are in parentheses. Remember the pattern of three, the Waltz.

3        I can feel (the) heat closing in,
2        (I can) feel them (out) there making their moves – split ellipse, partially closed.

1        [x) setting up their devil doll stoolpigeons,

3        Crooning over my1 spoon and dropper2 – dual ellipse, open.

          [that] I throw away1 {at} Washington Sq. Station2 – dual ellipse, partially closed.

2        Vault a turnstile [two steps down] the iron stairs – tripal ellipse, closed.

1        Catch [an] uptown A-Train. Closed ellipse, suggestive.

 

In case you want to see how it is written in the opening of the book:

          I can feel the heat closing in, feel them out there making their moves, setting up their devil doll stoolpigeons crooming over my spoon and dropper I throw away at Washington Sq. Station, vault a turnstile, two steps down the iron stairs, catch an uptown A-train.

          The purpose of what may seem, thus far, a pointless tirade about nitpicking for a theory’s purpose, but, although that may be true, the point is to illustrate how close literature is intuitively related to song–the waltz in particular due to its patternation being resolved in triplets, based on a repeating or extended phoneme arrangement.

          In another example, Oscar Wilde’s Ballad of Reading Gaol, elliptic patterns of extended ellipses are in 3/4th time signature groupings. A definitive ellipse is a three word title. Symmetrical phonemes occur when two ellipses during a sentence divide the subject into three words and the object into three words. An ellipsis is a three-syllable word and is definitive in relationship to meter and should be just before a fullstop. In looking at the Ballad of Reading Gaol, especially when transitions are removed, ellipses in language acquire an apparent, unconscious lilt of resolving threes.

          With slouch [and] swing

          Around the ring

          (we) Trod (the) Fools Parade

          (we) did not care, (we) knew we were

          (The) Devil’s own brigade.

In this instance, slouch and swing–an adjective, descriptive, set-up for the mass noun The Fool’s Parade–itself a symmetrical ellipse–revolves around the same three syllable phoneme that shows action as description. Slouch and swing show the manner of its target, the fool’s parade. Eliminating reference in transition allows not only for intuitive assumption on behalf of the reader, but makes the reference the reader’s choice. Here’s the diagram of the former stanza with notation:

          (With1) slouch and swing

          Around the ring

          [We Trod2)

          The Fool’s Parade

          [We1] did not care

          (We2) knew we were     

          (The) Devil’s own brigade.

A definitive ellipse is most common in American titles, or can be turned into one by blurring the definitive or identifying article, such as ‘the.’ A definitive ellipse, in titles, are most often, in English, begin with a definitive article, or transition to the noun. Russian doesn’t have a definitive article, and in speech words such as ‘am,’ ‘is,’ and always, ‘the,’ and ‘of,’ are left out. Consider Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark’s rendering in Russian: Hamlet: Denmark Prince. The and of are dropped in titles as they are in common Russian speech.

          The definitive article the and of are implied, and the ellipse is open, because it’s closed in English rendering: Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark. The definitive ellipse is the most common mechanism behind book titles. Originally, the title I considered for this book was Language and Literature. Instead, The Living Word seemed more dynamic and apt in its representation of the content extant in this half-thesis half pareidolic exercise. Consider popular book titles that are definitive ellipses, and I’ll start with mine because I firmly believe in nepotism: Songs of Galilee, The Dream Machine, The Make-Believe Ballroom, The Lizard’s Tale, The Echo Chamber, The Chameleon Mirror, and one ellipsis, Nobody. And now for some examples that you may recognize and respect:

          The Color Purple, In Cold Blood, The Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment, The Great Gatsby, War and Peace, The Penal Colony, Through the Looking-Glass, Unweaving the Rainbow, The Selfish Gene, The Descent of Man, Three Blind Mice, The Dharma Bums, The Western Lands, Homage to Catalonia, Romeo and Juliet, Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Little Princeetc, etc. Please do not take the obvious implication that I’m listing all the books I can see on my bookshelves, as it is not true. A friend has my copy of The Dharma Bums.

          Another aspect of titles that I appreciate requires a tricky explanation. To put it plainly, there are books whose titles are the books. Lets say that a novel comes out called The Empathy Device, and it’s about how books help people understand empathize with others, and in reading it, they understand and empathize with others. This makes the title of the book the book. Another example is one of my own attempts at realizing that concept: Counterpane, and Other Poems, was a collection of poems I released in 2011. The title Counterpane was a nod to Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Land of Counterpane:                             

                   When I was sick and lay a-bed,

          I had two pillows at my head,

          And all my toys beside me lay,

          To keep me happy all the day.

 

          And sometimes for an hour or so

          I watched my leaden soldiers go,

          With different uniforms and drills,

          Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;

 

          And sometimes sent my ships in fleets

          All up and down among the sheets;

          Or brought my trees and houses out,

          And planted cities all about.

 

          I was the giant great and still

          That sits upon the pillow-hill,

          And sees before him, dale and plain,

          The pleasant land of counterpane.

I don’t know if Robert Louis Stevenson intended the title to be a homophone with Counter pain, but the poem is about a sick child finding escape through his fantasies and imagination. It’s not much of a stretch to think that Counterpane is Robert Louis Stevenson’s own version of coping with illness through his ingenuity and creativity. In the titular poem of my collection, it’s about an autistic child, a young girl, who builds an entire city, names all of the plastic men and women, and whenever the real world became scary, she retreated to her model city of Counterpane, where she was queen, where everybody loved her. In that situation, the girl was mimicking what I was doing, and doing it at the same time; sometimes coping with reality is hard to do, especially for people with mental illnesses and addicts.

          Another book that is its title, and the book that made me recognize the concept, was my book The Make-Believe Ballroom. The story is about an old music teacher who was once a popular musician, but a car accident left him with brain damage and he didn’t really distinguish from the past and the future, but he was addicted to a type of medication to keep his heart rate down when he became afraid. This old drug addict decided to write a book called The Make-Believe Ballroom; in the book, he begins to lose distinction between the characters and real life and, in a nod to Blade Runner (which is based on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), the fictional characters he creates realize they are characters and escape the book and demand a happy ending from their disabled author. It’s another instance of a writer writing about what he’s writing about. Or, better yet, it’s a writer writing about a writer writing about what a writer is writing about.