Monday, January 3, 2011

Scribbledehobbledehoyden: The Magpie's Eye: Front Cover


Those who know me well know that I carry a notebook wherever I go.  "I've never seen him without one," editor John Douglas said to somebody who asked.  Long ago, because James Joyce named his notebook Scribbledehob, and because I was young and pretentious, I named one of mine Scribbledehobbledehoyden.  The name stuck, and became generic.  Back in 1997 I wrote a short essay about my notebooks under the plural title of Scribbledehobbledehoyenii.  You can read it here, if you wish.

Because people seem to be interested in the Scribbledehobbledehoydenii, I decided to scan one of them and post it, a page at a time, on this blog.  I'll be doing this every weekday from now to when the entire notebook is posted.  If I have time, I'll write a few words about the content.

That's in addition to my regular blog posts.  So you'll find these entries sandwiched between others.

Most of the notebooks have individual names as well.  This particular Scribbledehobbledehoyden is called The Magpie's Eye.  Most are spiral-bound notebooks.  This one, however, is in sewn signatures with black silk covered boards.  Ten dollars at Staples.

A few words on the notebooks themselves . . .

What they're not:  A diary, though I do date the entries often enough.  A workbook, except sometimes when they are.  A careful repository of writerly observations, though if only I had the discipline, they would be.

What they are:  A murky glimpse into the workings of my hind-brain, an aide memoire, frequently indecipherable, and a cruel joke on any academics who may become interested in my work after I am dead.  At their best, they are collectively a literary labyrinth.

And on this particular notebook . . .

It's not typical, because none of my notebooks are.  And because I always have two or three notebooks going at the same time (so I can grab one quickly on the way out of the house without having to search high and low for it), and because I'm more likely to carry the spiral bound notebooks with me when I leave the house (since they're smaller), this one is even less autobiographical than most.  Which means I won't have to censor much of it for the general reading public.

Finally, shown above . . .

I dipped a brush in bleach and drew this sign into the cover.  It looks a lot like the letter S and a little like a Celtic dragon but, though neither of those is unintentional, this is actually a symbol I invented while in college to help me while working rapidly on first drafts.  I don't have a name for it, but you might call it a not-so sign.  Rather than stop when the writing was flowing well to find the correct word, I'd simply slap down one of these signs to either side of the mot non juste and hurry along.

Later, I came to use the signs to denote things whose meaning was not literal.   Much, much later I read one of Samuel R. Delany's books and realized that I'd invented a symbol that he and his former wife, poet Marilyn Hacker, agreed the English language lacked and yet needed -- the "sarcasm mark."

Consider, then, the cover a warning:  Nothing in this notebook is meant to be trusted.



Matthew Brandi said...

Doesn't the principle of charity require us to believe that Hacker & Delany's suggestion that English needs a sarcasm mark was itself sarcastic?

It is certain that if the mark were available, no ironist would use it. (When writing sarcastically, that is: it could be used to annotate a text.)

Michael Swanwick said...

If the irony mark existed, nobody would have to post emoticons after making a joke online.

So I guess the case could be made that the smiley-face emoticon IS the irony mark.

Matthew Brandi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Stone said...

Perhaps after the coming imminent technological collapse the "smiley face" symbol and other emoticons will appear in wood block prints, and hundreds of years in the future scholars will debate their origins.


Michael Swanwick said...

Okay, now,all against my will, I find that image charming.