“This is my own bold story,” says Ouida Willoughby Johnson, obliging and sardonic protagonist of M. S. Strickland’s [1
, a lipogrammatical Bildungsroman as chock full of cunning wordplay as, say, Gravity’s Rainbow
by Thomas Pynchon, or Jacob’s Room
by Virginia Woolf, or Spinoza’s Doxy
by Harry Markson, or Plath’s Daddy
, or Barth’s Goatboy
, or Djuna’s Nightwood
, or just about any of Arno Schmidt’s logogriphic amalgamations of fact and fancy, “told in my own slant fashion. As you’ll soon find out, though, my passion for fashioning my story slantly shirks your usual chronological way of romancing things and opts, by contrast, for a fluid scriptorial tack I call, to coin a quaint tralatition, ludict
— a lucid ductility of glyph and word I construct from what among all my fair parts I lack. You could say, thus, that if my story’s an orchard, my story’s form’s a playground. And my orchard, in short, has as many criss-crossing paths as my playground has things to play on and with. It follows that no two paths, no two bouts of play, will strictly match. Just think of what Darkbloom’s Quilty, parroting Goldbarg’s Quain [2
], said: To scan a story is virtually to author it. With that in mind, what do you want to play, Author? You could plump down in catalpa shadow and play snapdragon. By snatching at raisins, figs, plums, apricots, sorbs, and so on in a bowl of flaming brandy, you might find out that I am or was a pupil at Tiliar Boarding School in Tixpu, and that I got my first job as a nanny for a Mountain Fukari family in Iagip. Snatch again, and in that rancho’s vicinity occurs my harsh initiation into what I call womaninity
. It is spring now, and acacia blossoms impart a fragrant wisp
to that burnt aura of alcohol and lamb’s wool hanging about my prompt graduation from said locus of scholastic toil. And as you, kissing your thumbs and rubbing your wrists, go off to toss quoits at quintains, I’m off to Owlstain with a full scholarship to ISOCPHYS, an Institution for Sociophysiological Study. You soon grow balmy of that dull clang of quoits, though, and so you gallantly switch to blind-man’s buff, aiming, by way of a sort of haptic imagining, to grab my confabulation’s throb and flow. It is, as you know, hiding in plain sight, and I taunt your vain stabs with pricks of my own — a grim habit’s thrall, a naughty proctor’s sly gift — so that, for all your pastoral groping about in sandbox and courtyard, on harrow-lawn and maidan, what you finally touch upon is simply an inkling that not all I do in Owlstain is happily studious. But don’t succumb to frustration too soon, though, or, throwing off your virtuous blindfold, you’ll catch sight of my stunning body skipping stunts for aficionados in various agoras, glorious or dingy, in Owlstain’s most insidiously artificial
lupanar, Glamporium. You could smirk, and mask your blush by trying your hand at golf, polo, curling, or draughts, but that will only show that I was or am also posing occasionally for tourists to snap my pic, or artists to limn my portrait in fusain or oil. In studio or stall, outdoors or in, I script, in addition, my daily block of words, striving, not to gainsay a formal sort of scribbling, but actually to construct a parasitic symphony of vast proportions out of it — 23 parts (known, as I’ll
- Ms. Strickland. — A synopsis of this author’s charmingly ambitious opus, including but not bound by such illuminating works of faith as Vast Divagations of Divinity, A Compass in a Frog Pond, Marjoram and Galangal, A Quintal of Ruth, A Fifth of Quiddity, and so on, forms part of my 249th ludict. As for a synopsis of my own slantly told bold story, C. Kidjaki and A. Raymond churn out a succinctly drawn variant of it in our Institution’s Journal of Sociophysiology [17(3), March 2010], an instar of which I thought worthy of working into a gap of my own institutional shout-out.
- Darkbloom’s Quilty, Goldbarg’s Quain — V. Darkbloom, A common book of spiritual stupration (Shatsbrook: Appalachian Spiritual Institution, 1948); O. X. Goldbarg, O jardim quai viottoli si biforcam (Tixpu: Tiliar & Co., 1941).
- Falling fruit. — Calling oak-fruits “nuts,” my doubting Author, is not simply wrong, but totally lacking in what Gallo-Frankish philosophy calls foi.
- Gloriosa columna. — Glorious column supporting / your idol from living baywood cut: / simply by looking at it would you vainly swoon.
- Catin du jour. — Soit. Mais jamais goton du bois à Lyon, Dijon, Albi, ou Avignon; mais pas du tout tapin du trottoir à Toulon, Tours, Laval, ou Draguignan; mais surtout pas putain d’abat à Montauban, Strasbourg, Calais, ou Pau.
- Prodigious amounts. — I must indignantly point out that my all too undrunk Author is not just putting words in my mouth, but is dismissing my consciously opportunistic Divastigations as simply an addict’s habitually incognizant divagations. My dabbling in psychotropics or intoxicants is hardly prodigious; is, in fact, far from copious or uncommon and functions simply as a facilitator of social transactions and spiritual transformation (not too dissimilar, in fact, from what Darkbloom charts in his spiritual book of common stupration; vid. scholium 2, supra), and as such, has no injurious impact, in aim or form, on my work or my writing.
- Your call. — You may find two apocryphal acounts of my fall in Akwa Pritxo’s Pista of 25 January 2010, and in Owlstain’s SCAT of 27 January ditto.
risk saying again, as ludicts
) ramifying throughout 13 partitions (our long-sought-for divastigations
, in point of fact). Now, following Quain again, I’m not loath to your concocting an appoggiatura of your own improvising upon my primary motif
, Author, and I wouldn’t scoff at playing tug-of-war or ping-pong with you, if that would in any way grant a concord to our conundrum. Nor would I mind if, in honor of Darkbloom, you’d haunt a barstool or clubchair in Glamporium’s bistro so I could cock my auricular organs authorward to catch your slangy liar’s crapulous pabulum as I grub about doing my gruntwork qua
barrista or Kafkaist barmaid with broom or sundry sordid organs (his, yours, ours) in hand. But what, apropos of said symphonic conundrum involving divastigations and ludicts, am I talking about? Should I say it again, Author? Watch out for falling fruit [3
] if you try sodding off against a holm oak’s trunk, for a calabash of acorns is as cumbrous as a hod of bricks. Or as that bard from Avignon said,
Gloriosa columna in cui s’appoggia
l’idolo tuo scolpito in vivo lauro:
sí ch’a mirarlo indarno t’affatico .
It’s right about now that my story’s combinatoric patchwork of illusion and allusion bids you chalk out a court of hopscotch and hop from grid to grid, skipping past my cryptic study of, say, grammaticalization of Mountain Fukari ritual taboos, or cyclic symbiosis involving snails (Nimloidu
spp.), ants, antlions, portal scorpions (Girtablullu
spp.), mustard plants (Brassica
spp.), fungi (Puccinia monoica
, in particular), humans, and stormy auks (both Moanzy burrasca
and M. ninsrata
) — various parts, in short, of my opus, Towards a schizomythology of ritual
, which I plan to submit for publication in ISOCPHYS’s Journal of Sociophysiology
. Toss a mango-pit puck into our plum-pudding park; jump across a plurality of assumptions to land in a blank substratum of logic from which civil war, it is said, irrupts. And catkins and acorns and rustic hooch nourish us in that chaos amid, amongst, or within which I squat with you in ruins and shacks, lift both pairs of our arms in horror or ardor, wrath or rapacity, and with my skirt now up to my chin and your plus fours down to your shins — what follows, Author, is not too difficult to fathom. And though officious fools may shadow-bark from my story’s margins, shouting out that I did a stint in an Intrussyan prison, or that I was a catin du jour
] in Paris, my gratuitous display of carnal charms is nothing if not a form of pliant armor
I fall back on in just such situations of vigorous constraint as this. Back to digging and frolicking in our orchard. Tugging on this or that part of my story’s languid foundations will draw out a multicursal flight from coast to mountain to bring us by a commodius vicus of iniquity back to paddling a boojum’s axil or Brazil nut’s husk back and forth across this circumscription’s taut plait of cotton so as to plot a finish to this drooping prolusion’s awkward comparison conflating story, orchard, form, and playground. If that’s not almost too pangrammatical for you, Author, I don’t know what is! Having cast off my flat analogy’s sagging garb, I’m back in Owlstain now, fronting in various of that city’s myriad social clubs my own glamorous group of scantily-clad virtuosi, Ishtar’s Hand. (I dub our wailing, droning stuff, ‘Ritually Incantational Taboo Music,’ or RITM, for short.) I grow to maintain a stability of sorts — only occasional stints at Glamporium, usually as coda to a gig — and sally forth to patch and furbish my own staid suburban manor, a two-floor cowstall of crumbling rusticity with courtyard and spiral stairs bought for a song at auction. But, finally, it’s all just a vagrant pursuit of my fictional philosophy’s stray indagation, a graphomanic concoction infusing savory philological victuals in a rambling salmagundi involving prodigious amounts [6
] of various intoxicants such as cognac, port, rum, Datura stramonium
(an hallucination-inducing annual), ayahuasca
(also known as ‘shaman’s hash’), opium, tobacco, cannabis, vodka, Mandragora officinarum
(a rut-inducing root), and Amanita muscaria
(a vision-inducing mushroom). My story’s, in short, as old as any prim young slut’s is, particularly una con un cuor’ d’oro com’ il mio
. I’m found — bloody, gravid, and stiff — at my colimaçon
’s foot. Was it foul play, that mortal fall? Or suicidal tumbling? Or did I simply tipsily trip? Author, it’s your call [7