Tuesday, July 27, 2010

From the CBRAT Print Archives: (We're All) The Children of Bosse-de-Nage #1

Joan was quizzical; Studied pataphysical
Science in the home.

The song "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" probably remains the most famous reference to dead French weird writer Alfred Jarry's greatest1 creation: the science of 'Pataphysics. Not being a great Beatles fan, the reference escaped me until pretty recently. My first knowing exposure to things 'Pataphysical came from comix artist Bill "Zippy the Pinhead" Griffith, who featured Jarry in a few stories and illustrated Nigey Lennon's 1990 biography, Alfred Jarry: The Man with the Axe, which I read in 1991, shortly followed by every Jarry book I could find in English.

In the winter, spring, and summer of 1991, I had a lot of free time. I had been out of college for a year, and I had been accepted to law school for the fall term, so I wasn't bothered by any sense of urgency to do anything I didn't feel like doing. I was working part time at a slack job, where I could read books checked out from the Northern Illinois University library all night long. When I wasn't reading, I was writing. I didn't make any money that year, but it was creatively productive. I put together a Xerox zine almost every week, and I was making trips to the post office every few days to mail off orders from Factsheet Five.

Another obsession at the time was the Victorian explorer and secret agent Sir Richard Francis Burton, known for, among other things, translating The Arabian Nights, bringing the Kama Sutra to publication, and making the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina while disguised as a Persian Shi'a.

If you lived through 1991, you might also recall that some other stuff happened that year. It went by pretty quick, so you could have missed it. Probably the only thing keeping the memory of this event alive is the movie "The Big Lebowski." Yeah ... I'm talking about the Persian Gulf War (August 2, 1990 – February 28, 1991).

My reaction to that particular war was to learn as much as I could about the culture and history of the people we were fighting. To that end, I read, among other things, an English translation of the Koran over a few lonely nights behind the desk at the Georgetown Motel in DeKalb, Illinois.

So ... all of this disparate but overlapping stuff went into a zine project called (We're All) The Children of Bosse-de-Nage,2 a vague and trippy agglomeration of various loci of modern angst, dressed up as a combined homage to Jarry and Burton. Part Roald Dahl-esque adventure, part science fiction farce,3 it ... is what it is.

What follows in this post is issue number one. There were two ... then law school interrupted the sequence. The third issue has never been definitively canceled. So hope remains that it is forthcoming. In the meantime, here's the first chapter.


1. Greatest, subjectively, in our opinion. Jarry's best known creation is, undoubtedly, the character of Pere Ubu, proto-antagonist of such plays as Ubu Roi and Ubu Cocu. Referenced thoroughly by a certain rock band fronted by David Thomas, as well as a prominent television production company ("Sit, Ubu, sit!")

2. Bosse-de-Nage est un personnage des Gestes et opinions du docteur Faustroll, pataphysicien d'Alfred Jarry. Cynocéphale papion hydrocéphale, il présente la particularité remarquable de savoir dire « Ha ha » en français, selon sa présentation au dixième chapitre. Il est depuis 1947 Staroste du Collège de 'Pataphysique, et assiste en cette qualité son maître le Docteur Faustroll, Curateur inamovible

3. The story that makes up the chief text of the first issue (and that drives the plot throughout) was derived almost verbatim from some science fiction I wrote in high school, probably in 1984, which I composed for the amusement of a physics-nerd friend of mine, who did get a big laugh out of it.