Me and Stefan Themerson

I do not know why I am writing this because I have no answers. For the life of me I do not know why I am obsessed with Stefan Themerson. I do but it is mundane and I would have to stop writing after the word love.

When I first read Stefan Themerson I threw Stefan Themerson, not out of the window, not against the wall, not into the fire, we had no fire, when I was a kid we had a coal fire and my older brother thought it marvelous that objects, mainly my objects, toys and the like, melted on the hot coals and turned the flames from orange to blue, down and proclaimed loudly, shocking my wife, who at the time was my girlfriend, that for the life of me I have no idea what the hell that book was about. I had just finished Stefan Themerson’s The Mystery of the Sardine. The energy I had spent on Stefan Themerson’s The Mystery of the Sardine I could have used to climb a mountain. I have never climbed a mountain. I suffer acrophobia and also vertigo. (I stole this) “Vertigo is often used (incorrectly) to describe a fear of heights, but it is more accurately a spinning sensation that occurs when one is not actually spinning. It can be triggered by looking down from a high place, or by looking straight up at a high place or tall object, but this alone does not describe vertigo.” When I first went to Chicago I had to get on my hands and knees and crawl down Michigan Ave. I felt very silly and very sick. I had just consumed three slices of Chicago (pie) style pizza and my belly was sagging and dragging along the pavement.

I am not going to make it easy for you, Stefan Themerson I think would agree with my technique, if you want to know about Stefan Themerson, Franciszka Themerson, Gaberbocchus Press, Barbara Wright, Guillaume Apollinaire, Kurt Schwitters, the first English translation of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi, Raymond Queneau’s Exercises in Style and The Good Citizen’s Alphabet by Bertrand Russell you will have to look for yourself, you will have to move, not far I know, but still move, you will have to travel through the labyrinth, you will have to play the detective.

Here’s a mystery: connect the link between Themerson and Potocki.

Stefan Themerson is Mycroft in the literary world and not Sherlock and that to me is a Mystery.

The next day after finishing Stefan Themerson’s The Mystery of the Sardine I drove myself into a frenzy trying to unravel the Mystery. It was only with the help of the next book, for the life of me I cannot recall which book, it had something to do with a man who was dead but he had decided to recall his life, he had led a strange and wonderful life and the book was stranger and wonderful, the book was very modern, strange considering that the book was written before the modernist period, that I was able to forget Stefan Themerson’s The Mystery of the Sardine. That is what I thought at the time. I thought that I was free. The Mystery behind the shadows lurks enigma.

Sardines are packed into a tin and the operative word is packed. Packed like the characters in a Dickens’ novel. I still agree with Nabokov that John Jarndyce is “the best and kindest man ever to appear in a novel.” Why can’t a book be full of John Jarndyces and only John Jarndyces?

I hope I am not helping.

There’s always a bomb in the Great Mysteries. Stefan Themerson had planted a bomb in my head. I was unaware of the bomb. This is usually the case in Great Mysteries. Stefan Themerson’s bomb went off in my head. I experienced word thrombosis.

Walking home three months after reading Stefan Themerson’s The Mystery of the Sardine, it was raining, I was exhausted and hungry, I was ornery, I suddenly desired Stefan Themerson’s The Mystery of the Sardine. I desired the book, the frail book that I had bought, the yellow, dogeared pages, the old library stamp, I desired it with a raging hardon, as you would, if you are male and desire a female projected by execs at some fancy firm in New York, London, and Paris as a sex object. It was then that I realized that Stefan Themerson’s The Mystery of the Sardine is a book and only a book and nothing more than a book and in the book Stefan Themerson could do whatever he pleased, he could write about a thousand characters who maraud, swirl, digress, transgress, undress, grow moldy in inertia, suddenly experience metamorphosis, suddenly escape the book. Don’t you find it funny critics call undeveloped characters cardboard and puppets and cardboard and puppets are generally made from the same stuff as paper and characters in a book are often made up of ink on paper, this I find funny.

A book is simply a book and nothing more than a book and in the book anything can happen and should happen. A book is a book. Homer knew this. The greatest plagiarist out there – the daddy of plagiarism. I would put Homer up against any contender. I’ll give you 100 to 1. That’s great odds. Stefan Themerson was no plagiarist. I am digressing. It is a literary device. Instead of reading critics and literary theorist read Aristophanes’ The Frogs, Juvenal’s Satire 1, read the best of the lot, the meanest son-of- bitch, Lucian of Samosata.

I hope I have not made this easy for you. Why should literature be easy?

I cursed Stefan Themerson and hurried home. Obstructed, but still I hurried home. I cannot remember the book I was reading at that juncture, but when I got home I removed the bookmark, which meant the book was now dead and in a state of black abeyance, and I brought light to the pages of Stefan Themerson’s The Mystery of the Sardine. While reading the book a second time I knew I would read the book a third time. Each reading I laughed, yelled, nodded my head, and cursed Stefan Themerson. What Stefan Themerson did was not new, but nothi…

Paul Kavanagh is the author of Iceberg and The Killing of a Bank Manager.

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