Friday, May 05, 2017

The Forgettory

(I'm using the current period of research leave to, among other projects, work with a research assistant to sort through my 'archive' of old files, texts, memorabilia, and - in one case so far - sandwiches of antiquity. The site, then, might prove to be a fitting place to post up any 'lost' texts which we recover by these means.

The following is not exactly in any of these categories. I had wanted to link to it from a blog post, and was convinced - given the title of this short piece from the series of texts about the Wee Man, provisionally called In the Name of the Wee Man - that I had already posted it somewhere on this site. But when I tried actually looking, I couldn't track it down. 

I imagine that's because it's somewhere on my Tumblr site, the search engine for which is never able to find anything, necessitating lengthy scrolling sessions. In order to obviate that, and because this site is so obviously its natural home, here is 'The Forgettory'.)

The wee man’s loft had been converted into a single large filing area known (at least by the sign on the door) as “The Forgettory”. It was to here he came in order to combat his extraordinary fascination with verbal minutiae of all kinds. 

About once a month he would carry up bags full of newspaper clippings, tickets and labels from various products ­­- anything where a verbal tag or a gimmick of lettering or an arresting phrase had caught his eye and sunk inexorably into his brain. He also brought sheaves of papers and several notebooks, all scribbled on and over, half-full or brimming. 

These contained phrases he had overheard in the street or on a train or in a cafe or bar, fragments from television or film or the radio, mishearings of all of these (which he found especially hard to shake off), plus the floods of fragments of images, characters, titles and half-glimpsed sentences and speeches which poured incessantly from the back of his brain. Everything, printed or scribbled, borrowed or his own, was heaped in a stove he had had installed up there, and burned to ashes. 

These would then be ceremonially scooped out and placed in a grey cardboard box about the size of a shoebox. This would then be taped shut and the dates between which all the material thus collated had been collected would be written neatly on one end panel. The box would then be stacked on top of its immediate predecessor (a new stack was inaugurated each January) on the shelves which lined the entire room in two massive ranks. 

Then he would slump in an armchair placed before the oven and, stretching his feet to a more conventional blaze, he would contemplate the remaining empty shelves, awaiting words still to be forgotten. Thus it was he carried out his heroic campaign against all the books that clamoured constantly to him to be written.