Cat the Herman And, 1965 Philadelphia, PA Age: 12; Adolescence; Masterman School and sociality; Experimental narrative.


Page of Cat the Herman And, Mss_0005_03

PDF: Large image



Spiral bound notebook. Written out by hand, as with the other novels of this period. Ball point pen. 2 pages. Excellent condition. Incomplete.
Experimental prose. Cats and langauge. Herman meets a cat. Herman, who is really Leroy the prince, and the cat.
This is my first experimental prose piece. I have no idea where I got the idea for it. Another manuscript, now lost, contained a sound-based narrative about one of the characters in the plots Amy and I did.

Related mss: None.

“Up morning Herman got it was for.” So this manuscript begins, and so it continues, with the inversion of normal word order being the most conspicuous feature of the text. A few words are actually dropped from the syntax, and the auxilliary verbs are detached, as are the conjunctions and prepositions.

On what basis this was conceived, and how it came to be executed, I cannot recall, only that I had been exposed to the idea of experimental writing. Probably a poem or two by e.e. cummings had been slipped into our course reading in the seventh grade, along with short stories by American and British modernists. I am quite sure my mother would not have been the source for works with radically unconventional syntax, so my reading teacher or Amy would be the likely candidates for introducing me to the fractured texts of modernism.

Another manuscript, written about a year later, all in onomatopoetic and suggestive language, is now lost, but I remember it was a story of a heroine leaving town, her suitcase going “plop plop” and her heels making staccato sounds on the pavement as she went. That manuscript had a storyline out of the plots that Amy and I were engaged in. But the aesthetic inspiration for this short piece seems to have been intellectual, not emotional.

The next experimental manuscripts don’t appear until 1970s, when I am in California. In the years between, the elaboration of the Amy writings takes up all my time and creative energy. Only a tiny handful of texts were produced between 1965 and 1970 that were not directly related to Amy, our plotting activities, and the emotional currents and sub currents of the relationship. “Cat the Herman And” therefore stands as a marker of the end of precocious childhood, the last piece of expressive writing conceived as a work to be made on specific conceptual terms, not produced as compensation, explanation, or plaint. I was proud of this piece, and of the responses it generated among my peers, who were puzzled, or amused, or even annoyed by it depending on their degree of tolerance. I thought myself extremely clever, but the lightness of this approach, its playful spirit and tone, would soon be drowned in the tangled intensities of my Amy world and its endlessly compelling absorptions.

Transcription:
      Up morning Herman got it was for. Windows through shining sun the was. Usual as Herman alone dressed. Years was Herman old five. Dressed was when he down went the stairs to kitchen to eat for breakfast.    
      "Herman, morning good." Cheerfully Mother said Herman to smile face on her welcomed to table him.    
      "Morning good." Quietly Herman mumbled almost mother to his.    
      Father asleep Herman noticed still. Glad Herman was escape from eye watchful not real father knew Herman. Knew name Leroy really and prince really royal. Charge of these people under put for when yuoung he was educate him ways in of commoners. Glad although as he was lonely life royal prince for. To confide secrets none to give away afraid not to anyone know knew he truth the of outraged for would real the king be not Leroy do want.

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