Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society

11/15/19 -- Vol. 38, No. 20, Whole Number 2093

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,

Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,

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Keep My Bright Side Up (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

MOBY DICK (1998) (letter of comment by Kevin R)

This Week's Reading (TEXTOS RECOBRADOS (1931-1955):


the Detective Story") (book comments

by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Keep My Bright Side Up (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

[Some information below is outdated.  I look better than I admitted

in the article.]

I am occasionally surprised at what I have to explain to Evelyn.

Well, to start out I should explain to something about my

appearance, since it probably would become clear from this article

anyway and I might as well get it out of the way.  As you might be

able to tell by looking at my Web page I have what is generally

called "rugged good looks."  I have a beard but parts of it are

prematurely gray, giving me a rather distinguished look.  On top,

my hair has given up the battle to hold back all the good things

that are going on underneath and has made way for my head to push

its way up and through.  Now, I rarely actually see the effects of

this movement since first of all, in most things I do in the day I

do not see the top of my head.   Occasionally I look in a mirror,

of course.  And while I am impressed by what I see, I am not

getting the whole picture.  You see there is still some thatching

up there and when I look on straight in a mirror it looks like I

still have all the hair I ever did.  One has to actually look down

on my head from above to recognize that, in fact, there are parts

of my scalp exposed to the sunshine.  And, not surprisingly,

looking down on my head from above is something that I rarely do.

It requires either two mirrors or an out-of-body experience.

Anyway, it has occurred to Evelyn to wonder why it is that there is

gray hair in my beard, but none on the top of my head.  I mean,

there still is hair up there and none of it is gray.  Now, after

she has been in this business environment for all these years, she

still does not understand what is going on and how things work.

Obviously conditions on the top of my head do not support the

expenditures of protein that are required to keep an entire head of

hair.  Conditions were a lot better in the Boom of the 60s and 70s,

but since that time they have changed and a certain amount of

right-sizing has become necessary.  My scalp can no longer maintain

the staff of hairs it once did and although I had on my head some

of the best hairs available anywhere, in order for my head to stay

competitive I have had to lay off a certain number of hairs and

make do with a smaller staff.  Because of quality initiatives and

because, as I have said, I have some of the best hairs in the

business, a smaller staff has been able to make do where a much

larger one has before.  Now if I am going to be laying off hairs

from the top of my head, which ones should I choose?  I could say

that the older and grayer hairs have seniority, but such a policy

on my head would be shooting myself in the foot, so to speak.

Of course the idea is to lay off the older grayer hairs that are

approaching pension age and hold on to the younger and more vibrant

hairs that have newer and fresher ideas.  They obviously are making

more of a contribution.  I have told my gray hairs that I have

really valued their contribution but that, conditions being as they

were, their services were no longer required in their present

position.  I gave them what was a decidedly generous sixty days to

find someplace else on my body where I needed hair and to where I

would be willing to go to the expense of transplanting them, but

those gray hairs that could not find employment elsewhere on my

body were terminated.  Actually, I have to admit some surprise that

more gray hairs did not take me up on my magnanimous gesture, but

then I suppose they felt that they were more or less rooted in

their present position.  Well, I guess it serves him right for

being so narrow.   The future belongs to the versatile.

And how well has all this right-sizing of my head worked out?

Well, under normal conditions the hairs that I had left were doing

quite nicely, thank you.  Of course last year, on my trip to the

Southwest, the top of my head sunburned rather badly.  Luckily my

scalp recognized what was the proper thing to do in the situation.

Obviously another right-sizing became necessary and now I am

getting by with even less hair on the top of my head. This means

this summer more head has to be protected by fewer hairs, but as I

say, these are the best hairs available anyplace and it is time for

them to start proving it.  If they fall out, let them be trod into

the carpet; they let me down.  And I am well on my way from having

a shiny, vibrant head of hair, to a shiny vibrant head without

hair.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: MOBY DICK (1998) (letter of comment by Kevin R)

In response to Evelyn's comments on MOBY DICK (1998) in the

11/08/19 issue of the MT VOID, Kevin R writes:

[Evelyn writes,] "And I understand that most of the gams had to be

omitted, ..."  [-ecl]

They *had* to leave out one of Ahab's.  [-kr]


TOPIC: This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

TEXTOS RECOBRADOS (1931-1955) by Jorge Luis Borges (ISBN 978-950-

04-2326-X) is an example of a book I will comment on that no one,

and I mean *no one* reading this is going to rush out and buy.  It

is in Spanish and contains entirely obscure articles, essays,

notes, etc., and the cheapest copy available is $53.  (Warning: if

by chance you do decide to buy it, the seller in Canada mistakenly

lists this book as being in English!)

And it is not even quite what it purports to be: a collection of

previously un-collected works by Borges.  While it may be true that

the original (Spanish-language) works have not been collected in

any books before this (published in 2001), several of them appear

in SELECTED NON-FICTIONS edited by Eliot Weinberger (ISBN 978-0-

670-84947-5), which was published in 1999.  I realized this when I

read Borges's review of KING KONG and was sure I had seen it

before--I had.  (Borges did not like the film.  He thought Kong's

movements were clumsy, and that the way he was photographed--from

above rather than from below--did not properly emphasize his

height, and settings such as the cave of "false cathedral splendor"

just made this worse.)

I had not seen Borges's review of THE SIGN OF THE CROSS, which he

describes as "tiresome."  The only justifiable moment, he says, is

when the black cat laps up the (apparent) milk of "Claudette Popea

Colbert"'s bath: he feels that de Mille seems to suspect the

audience will not believe it is milk, and "resolves this with some


He seems to like CONGO more for what it lacks--no safaris, no

African tribes, no lions, no botanical or zoological catalogues, no

mischievous monkeys--than what it has, though he does say, "It is a

human tragedy, abjectly and hellishly human," and cites Walter

Huston's performance.

Another repeat was "Leyes de narracion policial" ["Laws of the

Detective Story"], appearing as "The Labyrinths of the Detective

Story and Chesterton".  (The English title makes me suspicious of

the translator (Weinberger) as the essay makes no mention of

labyrinths and that seems thrown in just because labyrinths are a

recurring motif of Borges.

These laws are:

- A discretional limit of its characters.  (Weinberger says "six

  characters", apparently misreading "sus" as "seis".)

- A statement of the terms of the problem.

- A miserly economy of means.  (Weinberger's adjective of

  "avaricious" is, to my mind, just wrong, given that Borges says

  "Avara economia".)

- The primacy of "how" over "who".

- A reticence concerning death.

- Both the inevitability *and* the surprise of the solution.

These laws, by the way, seem similar to those of Ronald Knox ("10

Commandments of Detective Fiction") or S. S. Van Dine ("Twenty

Rules for Writing Detective Stories").  And it's also worth noting

that some of the most popular detective stories break some of these

rules.  I won't say which, but next time you read an Agatha

Christie, go back and re-read the rules.

In "Yo, Judio" (1934) Borges is responding to a critic who

insinuated that Borges was "hiding" his Jewish ancestry.  Borges,

says, "Many times it has not displeased me to think of myself as

Jewish," but that hope is fading that he can ever see himself as

descended from Jews, with any connection "with Heine, Gleizer, and

the Ten Sefiroth, with Ecclesiastes and Chaplin.  This is ironic,

as Chaplin was not Jewish either, but was often considered as such!

Borges also notes that "our inquisitors" are fascinated with

finding a Jewish ancestors for someone but never "Phoenician,

Garamantes, Scythians, Babylonians, Persians, Egyptians, Huns,

Vandals, Ostrogoths, Ethiopians, Illyrians, Paphlagonians,

Sarmatians, Medes, Ottomans, Berbers, Britons, Libyans, Cyclops, or

Lapiths.  The nights of Alexandria, Of Babylon, of Carthage, of

Memphis, could never engender a single grandfather; it was only to

the bituminous Dead Sea that this gift was provided." [-ecl]


                     Mark Leeper

          I would talk in iambic pentameter if it were easier.

                                          --Howard Nemerov