June 26th, 2010

Lawrence Durrell and
the Workings of Abel

As poet, publisher & old friend David Abel, long gone from New York, breezes thru this weekend with a reading on Sunday the 27th at the Zinc Bar, I find myself reading TUNC by Lawrence Durrell from 1958 …

A pheasant stuffed with nominal chestnuts, a fatty wine disbursed among fake barrels in a London cellar — Poggio’s, where people go to watch each other watch each other. I had been trying to explain the workings of Abel — no, you cannot have a computer with balls; but the illusion of a proximate intuition is startling. Like a buggerish astrology only more real, more concrete; better than crystal ball or divining rod.

“Here we have lying about us in our infancy” (they clear their throats loudly) “a whole culture tied to a stake, whipped blind, torn apart by mastiffs. Grrrr! And here we are, three men in black overcoats, ravens of ill omen in an oak tree.” I gave a couple of tremendous growls. Heads turned toward us in meek but startled fashion.

“You are still drunk, Felix.” This is Nash.

“No, but people as destinies are by now almost mathematically predictable. Ask Abel.”



“You interest me strangely,” said Vibart dozing off for a second. Emboldened Charlock continued.

“I call it pogonometry. It is deduction based on the pogon [then in Greek], a word which does not exist. It is the smallest conceivable unit of meaning in speech; a million pogons make up the millioneth part of a phoneme. Give Abel a sigh or the birth cry of a baby and he can tell you everything.”

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  1. ed says:

    By citing Euclid’s Pogon — a point, which has no part — and then linking it to the smallest unit of “meaning,” LD seems to be talking about the Logical Atomism of Wittgenstein.

    So it seems this whole element of the novel is meant as a spoof — not only of LW’s Tractatus but the whole Pure Logic project of Russell, Whitehead & co that inspired it.

    June 27th, 2010 at 10:37 am

  2. ed says:

    The Abel of Tunc was a computer, by the way.

    David Abel’s reading the other night was quite nice.

    June 30th, 2010 at 1:46 pm

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