A short time before he dies, he discovers that that patient labyrinth of lines traces the lineaments of his own face / J.L.B. & J.G.B.


On Exactitude in Science
In that Empire, the Art of Cartography
attained such Perfection that the map of a
single Province occupied the entirety of a City,
and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a
Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps
no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers
Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size
was that of the Empire, and which coincided
point for point with it. The following
Generations, who were not so fond of the Study
of Cartography as their Forebears had been,
saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not
without some Pitilessness was it, that they
delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and
Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today,
there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited
by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is
no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.

Suárez Miranda, Viajes de varones
prudentes, LibroIV,Cap. XLV, Lérida,1658

In Memoriam, J.F.K.
This bullet is an old one.
In 1897, it was fired at the president of
Uruguay by a young man from Montevideo,
Avelino Arredondo, who had spent long weeks
without seeing anyone so that the world might
know that he acted alone. Thirty years earlier,
Lincoln had been murdered by that same ball,
by the criminal or magical hand of an actor
transformed by the words of Shakespeare into
Marcus Brutus, Caesar's murderer. In the mid
seventeenth century, vengeance had employed
it for the assassination of Sweden's Gustavus
Adolphus, in the midst of the public hecatomb
of a battle.

In earlier times, the bullet had been other
things, because Pythagorean metempsychosis is
not reserved for humankind alone. It was the
silken cord given to viziers in the East, the rifles
and bayonets that cut down the defenders of the
Alamo, the triangular blade that slit a queen's
throat, the wood of the Cross and the dark nails
that pierced the flesh of the Redeemer, the
poison kept by the Carthaginian chief in an iron
ring on his finger, the serene goblet that
Socrates drank down one evening.
In the dawn of time it was the stone that Cain
hurled at Abel, and in the future it shall be
many things that we cannot even imagine
today, but that will be able to put an end to men
and their wondrous, fragile life. J.L.B.

Unusual Poses.‘You’ll see why we’re worried, Captain.’ Dr Nathan beckoned Webster towards
the photographs pinned to the walls of Talbot’s office. ‘We can regard them in all cases as
“poses”. They show (1) the left orbit and zygomatic arch of President Kennedy magnified from
Zapruder frame 230, (2) X-ray plates of the hands of Lee Harvey Oswald, (3) a sequence of
corridor angles at the Broadmoor Hospital for the Criminally Insane, (4) Miss Karen Novotny, an
intimate of Talbot’s, in a series of unusual amatory positions. In fact, it is hard to tell whether the
positions are those of Miss Novotny in intercourse or as an auto-crash fatality - to a large extent
the difference is now meaningless.’ Captain Webster studied the exhibits. He fingered the
shaving scar on his heavy jaw, envying Talbot the franchises of this young woman’s body. ‘And
together they make up a portrait of this American safety fellow - Nader?’

Notes to Unusual Poses.
Abraham Zapruder was a tourist in Dealey Plaza whose amateur cine-film captured the President’s tragic death. The Warren Commission concluded that frame 210 recorded the first rifle shot, which wounded Kennedy in the neck, and that frame 313 recorded the fatal head wound. I forget the significance of frame 230. The Warren Commission’s Report is a remarkable document, especially if considered as a work of fiction (which many experts deem it largely to be). The chapters covering the exact geometric relationships between the cardboard boxes on the seventh floor of the Book Depository (a tour de force in the style of Robbe-Grillet), the bullet trajectories and speed of the Presidential limo, and the bizarre chapter titles - ‘The Subsequent Bullet That Hit,’ ‘The Curtain Rod Story,’ ‘The Long and Bulky Package’ - together suggest a type of obsessional fiction that links science and pornography. One shudders to think how the report’s authors would have dealt with any sexual elements, particularly if they had involved Jacqueline Kennedy (perhaps The Atrocity Exhibition fills that gap), or how their successors might have coped with the assassination of Vice-President Quayle and his evangelist wife in a hotel suite - say in Miami, a good city in which to be assassinated, within sight of those lovely banyan trees in Coral Gables, ambling pelicans and the witty Arquitectonica building. J.G.B

God grant that the essential monotony of
this miscellany (which time has compiled, not
I, and into which have been bundled long-ago
pieces that I've not had the courage to revise,
for I wrote them out of a different concept of
literature) be less obvious than the
geographical and historical diversity of its
subjects. Of all the books I have sent to press,
none, I think, is as personal as this motley,
disorganized anthology, precisely because it
abounds in reflections and interpolations. Few
things have happened to me, though many
things I have read. Or rather, few things have
happened to me more worthy of remembering
than the philosophy of Schopenhauer or
England's verbal music.
A man sets out to draw the world. As the
years go by, he peoples a space with images of
provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships,
islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars,
horses, and individuals. A short time before he
dies, he discovers that that patient labyrinth of
lines traces the lineaments of his own face.
J.L.B. Buenos Aires, October 31,1960

The Enormous Face. Dr Nathan limped along the drainage culvert, peering at the huge figure of
a dark-haired woman painted on the sloping walls of the blockhouse. The magnification was
enormous. The wall on his right, the size of a tennis court, contained little more than the right eye
and cheekbone. He recognized the woman from the billboards he had seen near the hospital - the
screen actress, Elizabeth Taylor. Yet these designs were more than enormous replicas. They were
equations that embodied the relationship between the identity of the film actress and the
audiences who were distant reflections of her. The planes of their lives interlocked at oblique
angles, fragments of personal myths fusing with the commercial cosmologies. The presiding
deity of their lives the film actress provided a set of operating formulae for their passage through
consciousness. Yet Margaret Travis’s role was ambiguous. In some way Travis would attempt to
relate his wife’s body, with its familiar geometry, to that of the film actress, quantifying their
identities to the point where they became fused with the elements of time and landscape. Dr
Nathan crossed an exposed causeway to the next bunker. He leaned against the dark décolleté.
When the searchlight flared between the blockhouses he put on his shoe. ‘No . . . ’ He was
hobbling towards the airfield when the explosion lit up the evening air.

The Enormous Face.
Elizabeth Taylor, the last of the old-style Hollywood actresses, has retained her hold on the popular imagination in the two decades since this piece was written, a quality she shares (no thanks to myself ) with almost all the public figures in this book - Marilyn Monroe, Reagan, Jackie Kennedy among others. A unique collision of private and public fantasy took place in the 1960s, and may have to wait some years to be repeated, if ever. The public dream of Hollywood for the first time merged with the private imagination of the hyper-stimulated 60s TV viewer. People have sometimes asked me to do a follow-up to The Atrocity Exhibition, but our perception of the famous has changed - I can’t imagine writing about Meryl Streep or Princess Di, and Margaret Thatcher’s undoubted mystery seems to reflect design faults in her own self-constructed persona. One can mechanically spin sexual fantasies around all three, but the imagination soon flags. Unlike Taylor, they radiate no light. A kind of banalisation of celebrity has occurred: we are now offered an instant, ready-to-mix fame as nutritious as packet soup. Warhol’s screen-prints show the process at work. His portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy drain the tragedy from the lives of these desperate women, while his day-glo palette returns them to the innocent world of the child’s colouring book. J.G.B

J.L.B. Museum and notes; 1960
J.G.B The Atrocity Exhibition and notes; 1969
images: italy dec-jan '13-'14