Saturday, November 27, 2004

Ficus strangulensis and the Mailart Horn of Plenty

Fike is back in action with another of his mailart grabbags. There must be another term for such mailings, but I don't know what it is. Many mailartists follow its rules: filling an envelope with all kinds of wonder, somehow replicating our text-, image-, and object-filled modern world.

I've decided to give some small sense of the type of material that might arrive snuggled within the folded corners of a Ficus strangulensis mailart envelope, so here you have it:

Ficus strangulensis, [A Mailart Extravaganza] (16 Nov 2004)

We start with the envelope, which serves as the background of this picture. Fike has taken a marksman's target, filled with holes, and placed it above some text (a rough-and-ready method of collage), and entitled it "Balso Snell 04." The title baffles me, and I'm quite familiar with the work of Nathanael West, including his Dream Life of Balso Snell. This was West's first novel, a failed surrealistic novel where our protagonist must move through the body of a large wooden horse, finally emerging as an excretum. It's been decades since I've read the book, but that's my general recollection.

I once proposed a mini-course for Freshman at Syracuse University on Nathanael West that would have examined his two great novels (Miss Lonelyhearts and Day of the Locust) and his two failures (Balso Snell itself and A Cool Million, a breezy rewriting of Candide). The idea was that we could examine what it was that made good fiction good. The English department, unfortunately, saw no point in teaching "bad" books, so I had to settle for a mini-course on the modern novella, which was fine.

The rest of the disemboweled innards of this envelope include Fike's usual table of recent mailart activity (with comments and a note on his new exercise program), a few mailart cards, a treated corner of a mailart card he'd received, a slip of orange paper with a firearms warning, and a card catalog card for Milton Ridvas Konvitz' Constitution and Civil Rights. Since this last has come from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (which now prefers to go by its initials, RPI), in nearby Troy, New York, Fike notes,

Got this from MALOK [Waukau-Wisconsin-based mailartist] (& He . . . maybe from Alan Catlin [Schenectady-based poet, who lives a couple of blocks from me, but whom I've never met]?) or Geof Huth?

Well, not from me.

un violon d'ingres

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