Friday, June 09, 2006


Although you do not know me my name is Jane. I have seized your name from the telephone book in an attempt to enmesh you in my concerns. We suffer today I believe from a lack of connection with each other. That is common knowledge, so common in fact, that it may not even be true. It may be that we are overconnected, for all I know. However I am acting on the first assumption, that we are underconnected, and thus have flung you these lines, which you may grasp or let fall as you will. But I feel that if you neglect them, you will suffer for it. That is merely my private opinion. No police power supports it. I have no means of punishing you, Mr. Quistgaard, for not listening, for having a closed heart. There is no punishment for that, in our society. Not yet. But to the point. You and I, Mr. Quistgaard, are not in the same universe of discourse. You may not have been aware of it previously, but the fact of the matter is, that we are not. We exist in different universes of discourse. Now it may have appeared to you, prior to your receipt of this letter, that the universe of discourse in which you existed, and puttered about, was in all ways adequate and satisfactory. It may never have crossed your mind to think that other universes of discourse distinct from your own existed, with people in them, discoursing. You may have in a commonsense way, regarded your own u. of d. as a plenum, filled to the brim with discourse. You may have felt that what already existed was a sufficiency. People like you often do. That is certainly one way of regarding it, if fat self-satisfied complacency is your aim. But I say unto you, Mr. Quistgaard, that even a plenum can leak. Even a plenum, cher maĆ®tre, can be penetrated. New things can rush into your plenum displacing old things, things that were formerly there. No man’s plenum, Mr. Quistgaard, is impervious to the awl of God’s will. Consider then you situation now. You are sitting there in your house on Neat Street, with your fine dog, doubtless, and your handsome wife and tall brown sons, conceivably, and who knows with your gun-colored Plymouth Fury in the driveway, and opinions passing back and forth, about whether the Grange should build a new meeting hall or not, whether the children should become Thomists or not, whether the pump needs more cup grease or not. A comfortable American scene. But I, Jane Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, am in possession of your telephone number, Mr. Quistgaard. Think what this means. It means that at any moment I can pierce your plenum with a single telephone call, simply by dialing 989-7777. You are correct, Mr. Quistgaard, in seeing this as a threatening situation. The moment I inject discourse from my u. of d. into your u. of d., the yourness of yours is diluted. The more I inject, the more you dilute. Soon you will be presiding over an empty plenum, or rather, since that is a contradiction in terms, over a former plenum, in terms of yourness. You are, essentially, in my power. I suggest an unlisted number.

Yours faithfully,
Donald Barthelme, Snow White