Priming the 4-cycle canonical engine of The Becoming: a primer for the perplexed
The Becoming became .... released it to the hounds this week. A few peeps already have asked what's up with the numbering scheme so figured maybe we should explain .. so if you'd rather discover for yourself, skip ahead ....
We talked some before about the relevance of the number 4 as it relates to The Becoming ... the feral beings use a base-4 numbering system. Why 4? Why not .... it's just as arbitrary as a base-10 numbering system, which us civilized humans contrived because it so happens we have 10 fingers .. though there are in fact a few languages that use a quaternary counting system, such as the Chumashan language used by the natives of what is now the southern Californian coast. Both dogs & humans have 4 limbs, so 4 seemed more appropriate. And 4 occurs a lot in nature—4 seasons, 4 cardinal directions, etc.—so only seemed natural.
The caveat is that the number 4 is never explicitly stated in The Becoming ... that's because they, this mixed liter of mongrels, start counting with 0. So here's how we'd count in such a base-4 system:
... & so on, up to 3333 which for all intents & purposes is infinity to them (or 255 in our base-10 numbering system). This quaternary (or quandary) scheme may seem familiar to anyone that's dealt with binary bits & bytes .. which makes sense since the beings in The Becoming also have a certain cyber quality to them (or so we've been told).
As Ryan Ridge surmised, the structure is indeed fractal-ian ... holographic in that this 4-cycled canon reiterates itself at the
... & the list goes on. So for example, these two paragraphs (which appeared in an earlier form in elimae .. if you're curious to see the evolution) could in a holistic sense encapsulate the entire book.
What does this mean in plain english? The collective narrator(s) have a dream (a 'moosum nanitch' or 'sleep vision' in Chinook jargon) in which they die & their souls evaporate from the ocean ('saltchuck' in Chinook). They (unconsciously) feel good, floating free, less lonely. They have no concept of being alone & no sense of direction relative to their father's reference frame .. whether they know it or not they are in the first psychological state of unconscious incompetence. But as more souls collect, they become collectively self-aware, conscious of their incompetence. They transition from sublime vapor to visible clouds .. until the clouds darken & can't sustain their own weight & the drops (solidified or competent souls) all fall self-consciously to the ground, again feeling a sort of release/rush participating in this sympathetic collective behavior. The rained drops collect into streams & rivers which flow to the sea & the cycle repeats ....
In regards to this book 0, though, sorry to say .. it's entirely written from an unconscious incompetent state (think Benjy in The Sound and the Fury) .... you'll have to wait until later books to read a competent or conscious account of what actually happens.
While the metaphor is meteorological, you could also think of this 4-pronged recursion in terms of migration or the occupation of land .. or of being born, first alone, in a vacuum (or dark cellar like Kaspar Hauser) .. until others start to collect, crowd-source to the point of saturation of sustainability. It just occurred to us now that another 4-cycle process we could include in the above table is that of predator-prey ecology (as characterized by the Lotka-Volterra equations). If you graphed a predator-prey system, it would look like this:
So for example, let's say the predators are wolves & the prey are deer. If we start towards the right of the circle, there is lot of deer & the population of wolf is on the increase as a consequence .. the deer population maxes out (rightmost point on circle) & they start to decline as the wolves continue to thrive (quadrant I). Then the wolves reach their peak (top of circle) as the number of deer declines & the wolf numbers in turn start to decline (quadrant II) as they go hungry. But as the wolves die off, the deer make a comeback & begin to proliferate anew (quadrant III). But as they proliferate, the wolf then starts to make a comeback & both populations start to increase (quadrant IV). And we start the whole process over again .... a cycle usually driven in part by the 4 seasons, so it only makes sense.
Anyway, we could go on .... a similar cycle could be applied in the market-place (driven by supply & demand), perhaps to the rise & fall of civilizations, etc.
And while we're at it—while we are being revealing—we should take the opportunity here to point out or consolidate the other posts on 5cense where we talk about the process of making The Becoming:
That's all we'll say for now. Hope it helps.
Yesterday we did this interview with Mark Thwaite on ReadySteadyBook. He asked us to write a few sentences on what The Becoming is about, so we divulged a bit more there.
Input-wise, just finished The House of Hunger by Dambudzo Marechera .... the first we've read of Marechera & sure we'll be back for more .... though Marechera didn't get a chance to write much before his life was cut short.
He's one of the better African writers we've read outside of Nigeria (not counting the white Coetzee) .... & one of the few African writers that doesn't write about quaint village life or typical boy-soldier stories, but captures the grit & angst of contemporary (in the 80s anyway) urban Africa ... a sort of Zimbabwean Celíne ... schizophrenic & hallucinogenic. Here's a representative passage:
Next best thing to being there .... especially since we don't think we'll be visiting Zimbabwe for ourselves any time soon. The writing is flawed, sure, but that's what makes it seem real. And the cover is ugly as hell (perhaps intentional?).
Yesterday we received the spanking new second edition of Partial List of People to Bleach by Gary Lutz. We had our doubts initially, being that the cover we made for the first chapbook edition (featuring the right side of j) was being scrapped for a slicker design (a Flame Alphabet knock-off) ... but in the end, some heart was put into it & it looks pretty sharp.
Haven't had a chance to read what's been revised or added (at least one of the new pieces in Sleepingfish 12 is in there) ... we got as far as the new foreword by Gordon Lish & almost threw up. Maybe we shouldn't say that, but we're sick of the boy's club of worshippers glammed by every word that comes out of the dude's mouth & no one calling Lish on his bullshit ... & that's what the foreword he wrote is, complete bullshit ... dribble he scribbled that has nothing to do with Lutz but only serves to detract/distract from the art at hand. But if you take an X-acto knife & cut that page out, it's a nice book to have & hold .. it's full of Lutz after all.
As we are about to post this we just received an email from a ... 'colleague/friend' we guess you could say ... someone who just so happens has been known to kneel at the Lish altar & has a like-minded literary journal that most of you have probably heard of (that is certainly more 'popular' than Sleepingfish) ... & no, it's not the incomparable NY Tyrant (though he's been known to publish Lish dribble just because it's Lish ... swapped lit-spit & had a bear burger the other day with G & we're good .. even helped him moved mega amounts of product, in roller-suitcases straight down 9th to the P.O. loading docks near port authority ... tho maybe we're 'kind of a dick' for not liking Díaz .. maybe even The dick .. either that or you got bromantic bunny wool pulled over your eyes, bro). Anyway, this other guy, whose name is better left unsaid, we've sent books or emailed this guy a number of times over the years about various things, literary-wise or just to be friendly .. & have not heard back from him in years. Today he emails us acting all chummy (calling us brother) & says he is applying for some fiction fellowship & is wondering if we will write him up a book contract, to pretend we are publishing a book of his that doesn't even exist, as this is one of the requirements of the fellowship ... to have a book contract.
Is it just us, or does anyone else find this disturbingly unethical? Not to mention just uncool. Again, maybe we shouldn't say anything here, in this public space, being as we should be supportive of fellow small press publishers ... to help a brother out & not be such a dick. But it's hard for us to swallow how disgusted we feel about all this bullshit. And if you, Internet reader, happen to be an aspiring & well-meaning writer or publisher that is sincerely applying in earnest for a similar fellowship/scholarship/professorship/award, etc, this is the kind of shit you are up against ... it's all a total farce—a circle jerk of writers sucking up for literary favors. This is not the first time people have asked us to pretend we are publishing their books or want us to nominate them for something regardless of whether they have something that merits nomination. It's funny to us, shocking even, that institutions that grant such fellowships or professorships even consider Calamari to be legit. For starters, bro, we don't believe in contracts. And we surely don't believe in publishing or even pretending to publish a book except for one reason & one reason only & that is that the book merits publication ...
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