Ceremonious Trespassing
April 26, 2013 1:43 AM   Subscribe

Mysterious Skin: The Realia of William Gaddis

For the dilettante, as opposed to the scholar, the great thing about realia is that it is what it is, initially just objects on their own, whereas the notes and the drafts and the manuscripts all connect and threaten to pool together, drowning you in their paper mass. While a scholar might want to, say, do a study on the various corporate jobs that Gaddis held for most of his adult life and see how his various written reports have cycled back into his fiction—my sources at the library say that several different scholars have traveled from far and wide to undertake this “unique” study—the dilettante just wants to take a starry-eyed stroll through the museum of mundane objects. A zebra skin, a player-piano roll and a pair of women’s shoes. Any one of them is just the kind of artifact that could be found by accident at a quality estate sale, yet the fact that these once were part of the rote material life of a reclusive and complex novelist make the dilettante want to hunt them out and take a closer look, one by one.

Link to the William Gaddis Collection at Washington University, St. Louis

More about Sheri Martinelli: wikipedia; A Modernist Muse
posted by chavenet (4 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I took a course once about the history of "the book" as a notion, which introduced me to the Special Collections section of the university library, so I'm always interested to hear about items in such collections. More recently, I've been experiencing my friend Kristopher Jansma's explorations along the same lines, which he's blogging about, which have included "standard" print objects like Salinger's unpublished stories but have also included Oscar Wilde's grave and Cervantes's bones.
posted by knile at 3:16 AM on April 26, 2013

as I recall it, he was studying one periodical of early pornography so rare that a white-gloved attendant had to turn the pages for him, with the professor nodding each time he was done looking at a particular early photograph of parlor orgies or chaise-longue fellatio.

White gloves are terrible archival practice--in nearly every case, the clumsy handling they cause is worse than the contact with the user's (clean) hands. When gloves must be worn (photos, some illuminated manuscripts) we use nitrile gloves.

Also, MetaFilter: chaise-longue fellatio.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:42 AM on April 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

"What is it they want from the man that they didn't get from the work? What do they expect? What is there left when he's done with his work, what's any artist but the dregs of his work, the human shambles that follows it around?"
posted by with hidden noise at 6:06 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

"I had harbored a minor obsession with the novelist for years, even before reading a single word of his writing..." Don't understand why you would have an obsession with an author that you haven't even read, but I don't understand so many things.
posted by AnnElk at 8:59 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

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