A Letter From David


Gloria Loomis
Watkins/Loomis Literary Agency
133 East 35th Street
New York, NY 10016
June 3, 1999

Dear Ms. Loomis,

At Eric Darton's suggestion I am sending you the first 50 pages of Lord Rumwinkle's Painting. The whole thing is a novel of only 35,000 words with some spaces interspersed. He also said I should write you an introductory letter.

Here are a few facts about it, and some theorizing after the fact of writing it.

The first half of the first paragraph was written after deciding to write a book of pornography to make some quick money which I was very much in need of just then. I then thought it would bore me to go on and on and be limited to pornography. So I made it into a description of a painting, part of which was missing. The missing part is the second and last part of the paragraph. I thought it well written and decided to keep it instead of throwing it away like thousands of isolated paragraphs I have written. Later in the novel, the "missingness" transmuted into paintings found to be related to this painting like purgatory and heaven are to hell.

Throughout the novel I enjoyed stopping the moment I became bored, and would abandon the path it was on and, like a dog on a new scent, go somewhere else, coming back later. It strikes me that Eric Darton's Year's Utopia and my novel, though written independently and in different styles share at least one quality with the composer Beethoven, and that is we take risks all the time, shun the uninspired obvious, and surprise ourselves (pleasantly) with the results.

Lord Rumwinkle's Painting is also about freedom in writing, not only of content, but of style. So in the Canterbury Tales sequence (pages 28 to 35), section 17 consists of fast runaway nonsense which turns out to be what the artist's model dreams on the train before it arrives at Canterbury. This is followed by a section of realistic anecdotes in a serious plodding style, but which I hope is entertaining; then there is a Tristram Shandylike joke (sections 19 and 20) small as an olive; and the sandwich is completed (section 21) by a differently textured bit of nonsense dreamt by the sleeping model as the train arrives, from Canterbury, back in London.

The direction of Rumwinkle is inclusionary — anything can belong — and not exclusionary as, say, the novels of Henry James are (whose middle, and last periods, I love).

The composer Debussy's works sounded like orchestras tuning up, to most of their first audiences, and I suppose Rumwinkle will to some. But some older people will love it, and more of the young will, ever ready to throw the past away, although that's not my wish.

I've some never-submitted manuscripts in a drawer, some of which are book length, including versions of ancient Greek plays, a thing about Shakespeare's Hamlet, called Elsinore stands but Hamlet is in ruins, stylistically like no literary criticism ever written, and an article coming out in the next issue of the Journal of Consciousness and Energy about a do-it-yourself therapy I developed 40 years ago, derived from Wilhelm Reich's later work. I had some poetry published before that, and still write some now and then. I once read that Byron said if one goes on writing poetry after 30, then one is a poet; but I suppose one could be a stubbornly bad poet.

I also collected, over some 45 years of assiduous reading, what I think are the best 20,000 poems of the best 4000 poets who've written in English, from any country, from 1100 AD to now, though it's very spotty after 1960. It's about 18 feet long. One result of this and the other things in my small studio apartment is that, whenever my eyes protrude, I have to open the window to make room for them. If I left it to a university library, I suppose that 100 years from now a committee of scholars, poring over it like ants, will issue it in annotated fascicles over a period of generations. In fact, it would make a good supplement to the CD Rom that's been done of the poetry in the Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature to 1900. Mine is broader and contains discoveries unknown to the Cambridge CD, which, by the way, retails at 50,000 dollars. I've thought of extracting a sonnet anthology from mine (there has never been a satisfactory broad-ranging one) consisting of a volume of individual sonnets and a volume of sonnet sequences.

As for me, I've earned a living at many things. Among others, as a professional artist's model, as a bookseller (I was hired to set up, stock, and manage the first Borders Books in Ann Arbor and so am indirectly responsible for B & N also, for better and worse), and as a financially successful actor. But those are other stories.

I was also successful, early on, as a farm laborer who could drive an ancient Model T Ford through a wide-open gate, as a packer of fireworks who did not blow himself up, and as a diminutive heaver of hundredweight barrels of butter from one place to another some yards away without getting a hernia. I left England 30 years ago.

At present, the consensus is that I'm doing nothing — that is, I write.

Sincerely yours,

David Kozubei