Flashback: Quiver like the leaves — July 13/18, 2004

17 Dec

Note: On July 1, 2004, a meth-engulfed road trip ended with my arrest and detention in Brockton, Mass., where a judge ordered that I be stabilized and monitored at a forensic psychiatric hospital that had previously been known as the State Lunatic Hospital at Taunton. After five days, I was put on Zyprexa, the brand name for the anti-psychotic drug olanzapine. The entry below was written on July 13 and mailed to one of several people I trusted with the password to my blog, none of whom once betrayed my trust. It references harmlessdevon.com, a long-defunct website whose launching had the misfortune of coinciding with my crystal meth addiction. I, on the other hand, was fortunate in that my meth addiction was shorter-lived than most because I went insane rather quickly. My friend, who never hired me and whom I met in person only once, posted it on July 18. A previous flashback post is here. — Devon Britt-Darby

Roxy Paine, Askew, 2009. Stainless steel. North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, where admission is free and the museum is open until 9 p.m. on Fridays. Paine does not call his metallic structures trees, but Dendroids.


The library here in the loony bin (a.k.a. Taunton State Hospital) may not be much, but it does at least have a Norton Anthology of Literature, in which I found a few quotes most pertinent to the future of harmlessdevon.com. Don’t worry if their relevance is not obvious to you; it is to me, and for now, that’s what matters.

Literature may be an artefact, a product of social consciousness, a world vision, but it is also an industry. Books are not just structures of meaning, they are also commodities produced by publishers and sold on the market at a profit. Drama is not just a collection of literary texts; it is a capitalist business which employs certain men (authors, directors, actors, stagehands) to prepare students ideologically for their functions within capitalist society. Writers are not just transposers of trans-individual mental structures, they are also workers hired by publishing houses to produce commodities which will sell.

— Terry Eagleton, Marxism and Literary Criticism, 1976

In disjointed sentences the cook and the correspondent argued as to the difference between a life-saving station and a house of refuge. The cook had said: “There’s a house of refuge just north of the Mosquito Inlet Light, and as soon as they see us they’ll come off in their boat and pick us up.

“As soon as who see us?” said the correspondent.

“The crew,” said the cook.

“Houses of refuge don’t have crews,” said the correspondent. “As I understand them, they are only places where clothes and grub are stored for the benefit of shipwrecked people. They don’t carry crews.”

“Oh, yes, they do,” said the cook.

“No, they don’t,” said the correspondent.

“Well, we’re not there yet, anyhow,” said the oiler, in the stern.

“Well,” said the cook, “perhaps it’s not a house of refuge that I’m thinking of as being near Mosquito Inlet Light; perhaps it’s a life-saving station.”

“We’re not there yet,” said the oiler in the stern.

— Stephen Crane, The Open Boat – A tale Intended to be after the Fact: Being the Experience of Four Men from the Sunk Steamer Commodore, 1897

One ought to know everything, to write. All of us scribblers are monstrously ignorant. If only we weren’t so lacking in stamina, what a rich field of ideas and similes we could tap! Books that have been the source of entire literatures, like Homer and Rabelais, contain the sum of all the knowledge of their times. They knew everything, those fellows, and we know nothing. Ronsard’s poetics contain a curious precept: he advises the poet to become well versed in the arts and crafts – to frequent blacksmiths, goldsmiths, locksmiths, etc., in order to enrich his stock of metaphors. And indeed that is the sort of thing that makes for rich and varied language. The sentences in a book must quiver like the leaves in a forest, all dissimilar in their similarity.

— Gustave Flaubert, in a letter to Louise Colet, April 7, 1854, during the writing of Madame Bovary

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