“This is to certify, That I have found the Key To all Existance.”

A few years ago I had a gig reviewing literary magazines for a book blog with a cheeky name (I still contribute, sometimes, and adore the content of the site.)  I wasn’t entirely enamored of the process of reviewing lit mags, but I did get my hands on one issue of a fantastic rag (misnomer, I know) called Tin House.  (It’s quite well known, and I know that, so excuse the overly revelatory tone.)  The issue I reviewed had a theme of “off the grid”: it chronicled communities and peoples “on the edge,” which is where I’m moving toward (am?)  Almost every piece felt like a gift: there was a short story from the point of view of a woman with dementia, a poem with hints of Plath, and a delightful essay on the bathroom attendants of Paris, which of course this Francophile devoured even though she had always felt awkward around “le dames pipi,” as they’re known.  The issue also had seven reviews of books, including one compilation of letters sent to Mount Wilson Observatory in California, mostly from schizophrenics and people with delusional disorders.  I wanted this book oh so much, and I think, because I underlined it, that these sentences sold me on it:

“It’s amazing and heartbreaking to read an insane person’s attempt to build a case.  It’s like reading a dream as it unfolds.”

So at some point I lost the magazine in the morass of my apartment, though I, as they say in romance novels, never forgot the book.

Cut to two years later: I’m at work, trying to figure out if I should add more books to my order from Barnesandnoble.com (already in the shopping cart were Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp, Gravity and Grace by Simone Weil, and Suicide by Edouard Leve –– all of which I’m SUPER EXCITED FOR, which will sound super weird if you read the synopses) and I was musing to WOD, an editorial assistant/Guy Friday at my office, about how I wanted to find this book I had wanted, in various degrees (as in, thought about every so often to lost sleep over), for years.  “It’s like… these crazy people… who wrote letters to this space… observatory… place.”  Obviously not the best bet for Google.  Title?  Nada.  Editor, publisher?  Zilch.  I decided to let it go, again.  UNTIL!  I got home that evening, and my roommate and I were cleaning out tons of old magazines left by my roommate who moved out to live with her very irascible graffiti artist boyfriend and THEN I FOUND OMG THE “OFF THE GRID” ISSUE OF TIN HOUSE!  Immediately I raced to the Museum of Jurassic Technology’s website (they published Letters to Mount Wilson Observatory) and ordered myself a copy ($10!  at the Store) and read the missives to space observers (quite short) in about a day.  My favorites:

Postcard from an Unknown Person

To

Mr. Wilson of Mount Wilson Observatory

MR. WILSON

PLEASE SHOW MR. EINSTEIN YOUR BIG TELESCOPE SO HE CAN TELL US ALL ABOUT IT HE HAS NO BIG TELESCOPE YOU KNOW BUT WE KNOW HE IS A BIG SCIENTIFIC MAN IN EDUCATION HE IS CONSIDERED EVEN GREATER THAN CHARLEY CHAPLIN HURAY FOR ALL THE JEWS WE WILL SOON RULE THE WORLD SOME FELLOWS DO NOT LIKE US BUT WE GOT THE MONAY HURAY

HURAY

And…

Letter from Unknown Person

to

The Observers at Mount Wilson

READ – THEN PASS                                              THE EARTH is FLAT and

TO A PROPER PERSON                                     STANDS FAST. PROVE IT

Delusions

Delusions, or fictions in some cases have become public opinions – as in the case of the shape of the earth.  I dreamed last night I was in a court – when a man arose and made a charge against me.  No action against me being taken by the judge – I followed my accuser from the court room and outside – I asked him what is the trouble?

He said – you told my hired man that the earth was flat and stands fast.  He being an educated foreigner made a drawing to show your plan of a flat earth.  Then he took a copy of the plan and began to fasten it to the outside wall of a building looked at the drawing and I said it was good work Let it stay.  My accuser then took the copy of the drawing from the wall and threw it on the earth.  I picked it up and took it into the court and showed it to the judge – and he saw there were two copies.  I then took my seat in the court and peace.

I also had a dream that I had been making new earth from waste materials including the flesh and grease of animals.  The pile heated and burned – and the surface gave way in places and smoke came up.

Thus the earth – as a whole – in places was made.

Aug. 29, 1920

Historian Boston, Mass.

The builders of Greece came from a country west from Egypt beyond the ocean – which of course was America.  The authors of the Bible tell us that the father of Abraham came to Egypt or Palestine from over the flood – which means that the father of Abraham came from a country west from Egypt beyond the ocean – which of course means America.  The father of Abraham mated with a woman or women of Egypt or Palestine from whom came the Israelites in part at least.  The Hindus in the Rigveda tell us about Heaven – that was beyond the dawn.  This means that to the Hindus in India – Heaven was beyond 105 or 120 degrees of longitude east from India – as the dawn means east from any place – and in the Rigveda the place was India.  105 or 120 degrees of longitude east would be a long way to Heaven – n ow called America.

Other books I want from this issue:

How to Do Nothing With Nobody All Alone By Yourself by Robert Paul Smith

Testimonies of the Life, Character, Revelations, and Doctrines of Our Ever Blessed Mother Ann Lee, and the Elders with Her by Rufus Bishop and Seth Young Wells

The Passion According to G. H. by Clarice Lispector

Paris Peasant by Louis Aragon

You should probably buy them for me as gifts and send them to me at my only permanent address:

Itinerant Daughter

c/o The Guggenheim Museum

1071 5th Avenue

New York, NY 10128

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