January 7th, 2006

belzoni

[Eliptony Core Sample] Fen-Fulc

Fort, Charles, The Books of Charles Fort (Henry Holt & Co., 1941).

To quote Bruce Springsteen, "Do I have to say his name? Do I have to speak his name?" For all proper eliptonists the cynosure, the lodestar, the primum mobile, the beginning point of the circle measurable anywhere, is the pathbreaking -- and mordantly humorous -- work of Charles Hoy Fort. Fort can be seen as a Thomas Kuhn with the spirit of a Royal Society naturalist, or as an Edwardian postmodernist, or as a portrait of Paul Feyerabend as magus, or as the ochre-painted slave on the chariot of orthodoxy whose job it is to whisper "Thou, too, art mortal." Except that rather than whisper it, he confides it in the tone of that clever guy that all guys in bars, or at least all clever guys in bars who have read the Jorkens stories, think they are, but aren't. He tilts back the brandy-and-soda and tells you about disappearing Ambroses, or giant spaceships full of eels, or eclipses that don't happen on schedule, or tiny crucifixions, or God's war on the color blue. And you keep buying him drinks because it can't get any better, and surely he's about to tie them all together, but he never gets drunker (although you do) and the stories never make any more sense, and at closing time, broke and light-headed, you walk into the misty night and look out for falling frogs.

Honorable Mentions: Finucane, Ronald C., Ghosts: Appearances of the Dead and Cultural Transformation; Flint, Valerie, The Rise of Magic in Early Medieval Europe.