Sunday, December 04, 2011

Notes from a talk given by Nicholson Baker, February 2011

I wrote these notes earlier this year, when Nicholson Baker came to speak at Columbia—a great talk by an early member of the EP pantheon. (My former student Andrew Eisenman gave the wonderful introduction.) The words are in black ink on both sides of a yellow bank receipt. The handwriting is messy, at times nearly indecipherable; the chronology is unknown, as entries are written horizontally, vertically, every which way. There are some arrows, brackets, and lines of demarcation. (Mostly I am posting this so I can throw away this piece of paper, which has been taunting me for most of this year, daring me to transcribe.)

Dizzies challenge: What book (or what anything) does "DWYDWTD" refer to?

[Reverse side of receipt]

GGM [ = Gabriel García Márquez]
DWYDWTD [ = ?]

early NB compos[itions]}

I love chronology

Heap of self
I forget whole books
[Reminds me of passage in U&I about how little we retain from even the books we like.]

carpet remnants

keep it short)
Copy out good stuff)

Geo. Saintsbury
This American
kind of
Lego [?]

What it's like
to be sitting
in a room

Churchill [?] magpie/maniac
DB [= Donald Barthelme] — @50,
starting to count
You gotta face down yr demons! —————> 400 pp. ———> down [???]
—beard [?]
———> There's something fake about a long book.

sign language [There was a woman to his left, relaying the talk in sign language.]

Simp[le?]/complet[ist?] [?]
[Or more likely: "Simple/complexity"]

I thought it was my friend, then remembered my friend was dead. [I have a feeling this could be a note to myself about some story I was working on, or else a line wanted to use in a story.]

Korean actress story [This was definitely a note to myself, to get back to a story I had started/was working on.]


[Front side of receipt]

bassoon: some ridiculous novelty item
Strav[insky], Bartok, Brahms
Rubbing brow—
Schumann var. #9
"I wanted it not to be modern."

("Jeez, Eddie Money's not bad.")
Beat your brains (ASL mimic head morts[?]) ["American Sign Language signer mimics head mortifications"?]

Dick Francis is a great comfort to me. First person. Horses. Every single book.
[The] M[e]z[zanine]: The book was aiming at the list

Panasonic 3 wheel vacuum cleaner, greatness of

What a brutal thing to say—& I was probably wrong [? about what?]

If I can surround
it w/words to make it OK. (vid) [??]
Every day that I)
write is a new file)
[NB starts a new computer file for each day—title is the date]
Boringness is really
an interesting thing
[On the editing process:]
The places where I fell
asleep I took out
The most modern I
ever got, I think,
was Geo. Eliot
Maeve Brennan [what he was reading lately]

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Blogger Gina // @letterandline said...

Think this is a good rule of thumb: "[On the editing process:]
The places where I fell
asleep I took out"

Taking a stab at DWYDWTD=do what you don't want to do?

Couldn't even try to guess what this would be, book-wise.

9:21 PM  
Blogger Ed Park said...

As it turns out, you're right!

Another attendee posted this to Twitter:

9:26 PM  
Blogger Quailty said...

Was NB recommending that writers Do What [They] Don't Want To Do? Has more context come back to you?

"ASL mimic head morts" is clearly a reference to the death of Andrew S. Leland's "classic" mimic-head -- long live ASL's mimic head!

7:56 AM  

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