SUMMARY REPORT TO THE COMMITTEE BY THE PROCUREMENT GROUP OF THE LOST VOICES OF FRESH KILLS LANDFILL AUTHORISATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2082
APPEAL FOR ADDITIONAL FUNDING TO CONTINUE
1 September 2081
Rosa Sutherland-Suzuki, Poet, Chair
Dr Mehmet Ming, Professor of Obsolete Literatures
Laila Frazier, Prose Composer
Andrej Wooley, Anthropologist
Dr. Amita Andres, Archeologist
Experts, Interns, Student Assistants
1. Group Mandate
The intention of the Procurement Group is to assess the nature and significance of unpublished fiction manuscripts residing in Fresh Kills Landfill (1948–2001), Staten Island, New York City, former State of New York. In carrying out its duties, the Group has received generous funds as well as cooperation from Committee Secretary Abdul Francis Jackson III, Director of Multicultural Affairs for New York City, and analyses, briefings and other information necessary for the fulfillment of its responsibilities. The Group submits this report of its initial findings six months after the date of receiving funding.
2. Group Review
The Group examined manuscripts found in six areas of the Landfill. Our assessment is based on:
- Manuscripts – whether clean or marked with revisions, whether typewritten, hand-written, photocopied, or computer-printed, that, for reasons unimportant to this request, were found in their entirety
- Manuscript fragments – single pages, torn pages, noncontiguous pages, pages in notebooks and binders, and pages that could not be fully made out due to erosion, contamination, or incompleteness
- Manuscripts on CDs, 5¼’ and 3½’ diskettes, hard drives, and remote hard drives on which works could be opened, read and printed (with, where needed, generous assistance from MIT’s Antiquated Computer Technology Lab)
The Group reviewed all works it came across. The Group’s concern was to obtain examples that would accurately demonstrate the range and scope of manuscripts in the Landfill. It eliminated any manuscript that was published wherever an author-title match was found on Hypernet3.
In addition, the Group did not make a critical evaluation of the manuscripts or attempt to determine reasons they failed to survive the vetting process when writing was published on paper, the venues limited, and the process formal, layered and social. The Group’s only intention was to present as broad a range as possible to the Committee as evidence for procuring an additional 3,750,000 Yuan to rescue more ‘lost voices.’
3. Organisation of the Report
This is an unclassified Summary of the 464-page Report presented in Zing form to the Committee. The Summary is accompanied by examples A through D included in Section 5.
The full Report has many more unclassified examples, 20 in all, as well as audio discussions and video logs of the Group’s work at the Landfill. It also contains a classified section of author names and biographical data found at the sites and researched on Hypernet3. All 167 manuscripts and manuscript fragments added to the Repository are available to Committee members upon request.
4. Executive Overview
Conclusion of the Group
Manuscripts in the Landfill are more plentiful and diverse than was thought. Thus, our ability to add more ‘lost voices’ with a wider range of subjects, styles, contents and genres than expected has increased.
The Group and its Members
The Group shared its cumulative decades of experiences and range of knowledge and views. In determining what to include in the Repository we took into account our differing tastes and opinions. Where necessary, outside opinion was sought. Only when there was unanimous agreement was a manuscript placed in it.
To guide our assessment of manuscripts, the Group posed these three questions:
Question 1: Is the manuscript, including manuscript fragments, developed well enough to include in the Repository?
Question 2: Is it of a nature that makes it ‘unique’ to the examples already included in the Repository?
Question 3: Can the Group foresee a time when the manuscript might be deemed replaceable by another like it?
In seeking answers, the Group familiarised itself with the state of writing during the 54-year timeframe the Landfill was active, as well as, where necessary, with the depth of analytic capability within the current language development and restoration (‘literary’) communities. The Group used its access to individuals with specialised knowledge. It also consulted with experts in the wider academic community and with private groups when necessary.
The Group’s final judgments are derived from applying this methodology and examining manuscripts in light of the individual and collective experience of its five Core Members.
Scope of Work Ahead
The difference between our initial estimates of what we would find and what we came across was surprising. We did not fully comprehend:
- How much was being written
- By how many
- The negligible affect public discouragement had on writers
The Group feels additional funds will yield an equivalent number of entries to include in the Repository, and likely many more.
‘Untitled Fragment #4,’ handwritten, three ring binder, many pages damaged or unreadable, date unknown
She was messing with me. Leading me around like a toy on wheels being pulled by a string. Did I know the difference between communism and capitalism? Of course I knew many and I was about to educate her, but I never got the chance. Under capitalism man exploits man, she said, under communism it’s the reverse. That’s when I thought you put her up to it, Peter. It was your pathetic humor. What were the possibilities? She had to know me, live around here. We shared the same airspace, I knew that much. Or, and this crossed my mind, it was the wife of one of our old college pals who despised our politics and was working for the Bureau now. Or maybe someone gone mad with the latest publication of the alumni directory.
‘That’s potentially a long list,’ I interjected.
Gordon said, ‘I can shorten it to about five.’
Here Martin’s improbable story screeched to a halt, and he didn’t appear disappointed. Nothing he’d told us explained his four-month disappearance. Why did I expect it would? Without another word he pushed his chair back and headed to the bathrooms. He must have needed some time to decide where to take this absurdity next.
The empty mug was warm in my hands. The cigarette smoke had glazed over Gordon’s eyes so they appeared to be tiny skating rinks. I refilled my mug.
‘You know the name of the game he’s playing.’ Gordon asked the question I knew was building in him. ‘It’s not Charades.’
I met his eyes and read my own interpretation on his face. ‘He’s having a nervous breakdown. He’s always been on the verge of one.’
‘Do we ask the names of his prescriptions and the doctors signing them over to him?’ Gordon said.
I had the fleeting thought Martin was going to do something horrible to himself in the bathroom. He’d put the blame on us in a note he’d tape to the mirror, citing years of verbal abuse. I didn’t say anything to Gordon. And just as well. Martin was back in no time, ‘Refreshed,’ he said. More surprises were on the way. Another pitcher was delivered to our table in response to Gordon nodding his head. It’s arrival didn’t interrupt Martin, already back into it.
‘I know this isn’t easy to believe,’ he said. He put a hand on the manila envelope he’d set on the table as if a bible he was swearing an oath on.
‘Certain circumstances aren’t possible.’ I said. ‘Such as free love. Honesty from you.’
‘Months ago I thought that too,’ Martin said. ‘There are situations, realities …’ He went out searching for something he couldn’t find and put a stop to it by taking a gulp of beer.
‘You can tell me until you’re blue this building and the Empire State are the same size, or that certain dictators were good men with honorable intentions, but you’ll never convince me,’ Gordon said.
‘People once thought the Earth was the center of the universe,’ Martin said. ‘I may not have been able to convince you back then it wasn’t, but I think I could now.’
‘You’re going to tell us you can make people come back from the dead?’ I said.
‘Very perceptive, and no longer impossible you know?’ Martin said.
Gordon and I threw our heads back and rolled our eyes.
‘It’s against reason,’ Gordon said. ‘We’re organisms with natural life spans. With hearts and brains that stop functioning when we die.’
‘What do you think you’ll sound like by the end of the next millennium?’ Martin said.
‘So everyone living and born from now on will occupy the planet forever?’ Gordon said. A finger circled the rim of his mug.
‘They’re all going to move to Brooklyn too,’ I said. But my attempt to lighten the mood failed.
Time Flies, Money Goes Fast, nine marbleised-covered notebooks taped in packets of three (numbered 4, 5, 6, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18), total number unknown, dated by month 1983 to 1985, a story about the life of a New York City taxi driver on and off the job
Note: These notebooks are all dialogue; conversations between drivers and their fares, and among themselves and others. There is no description.
‘That day I made $450.’
‘Every day you make that much?’
‘No, just that day. When I made $450.’
‘I got to get me a cab license.’
‘And I should have made $249 more.’
‘You made $450 and someone beat you out of $249.’
‘$249 more. It was that much more to Washington. I didn’t know it.’
‘You went all the way down to Washington?’
‘Yep. $749 round trip to Washington. That’s by the book, but I didn’t have it on me at the time so I didn’t know.’
‘You told me you made $450.’
‘That day I did.’
‘And the trip to Washington was $749.’
‘That’s right, by the book. But I didn’t have it on me.’
‘It don’t add up. $450 and $249 ain’t $749.’
‘I made $500 that day.’
‘You said you made $450?’
‘He’s got so many lives he don’t even remember what he told us two minutes ago. Yesterday he said he was taking college classes.’
‘Yesterday I was taking college classes.’
‘Just yesterday or today too?’
‘Just yesterday. I don’t take them every day.’
‘Los Angeles, 1964,’ section titled, overall title unknown, at least 84 pages, written 1967 to 1968, a story about the rise and fall of a trumpet player in the 1950s and 60s
In New York everything was available and I didn’t refuse any of it. I’d been going at it full speed dead ahead in one direction. I’d lived good, fast, hard, the nights blurring into one another so it made me think the sun’s never coming up again. Even though I knew I could keep going, a little voice told me a time was coming when it would all crash. I started to see thirty wasn’t so old an age after all. I needed some rest.
You shoot up enough and it changes your personality. You hadn’t been easy to get along with before then. You were always a bit on edge. But after you start you become as difficult as everyone else who does it. Irritable. A nasty temper you use when something bugs you. And lots of things do. You want more and more dope and that’s what turns you crazy. The drive that don’t stop, like eating or sex, a need coming on all the time. You’d do anything not to come down. You’re spending all your time getting heroin and shooting it. Getting the money to buy some more. It takes everything you can get your hands on. It’s never enough.
An offer comes your way to play out in LA. You think sun and beaches. Peace and calm. Beautiful ladies wanting you all the time. But you get there and it’s not like that. Your imagination tricked you again. You share a three-room apartment with Carl King, one of the finest drummers on the West Coast. You respect him for that. A serious fellow. Carl’s all business. He likes playing. Likes the money. He’s no angel but he knows his limits. So it’s inevitable things go bad. You know it’s not easy putting up with you. Carl gets tired of your shit real fast. One morning he tells you he’s going out of town for a while and you think you better kick the habit or find another place to live.
You decide this is the time to try it. You lock yourself in Carl’s apartment. It’ll always be his place even though you’re paying half the rent. You make a promise not to leave until you’re off the stuff cold turkey. You want to avoid a clinic. The thought of other people seeing you through this isn’t pleasant. You don’t want a doctor watching over you. You don’t want people touching you all over. You want to do this by yourself.
Those first days you’re sicker than you’ve ever been. You never realised flesh and blood can feel so bad and still live on as a human being. You’re stiff in the neck and legs. Chest and throat are tight. Full breaths are difficult to come by. Every joint feels like someone’s driving a nail into it. The pain doesn’t go away no matter what you try to do. You feel like you could die. If someone promised you that you’d be gone in a split second you’d take it up without another thought. You’d rather be wheeled through the double doors of a church, carried by six and set in a hole in the ground than continue this way.
You can’t eat a thing. Nothing. Not even a peanut butter sandwich. It wouldn’t stay down anyway. You tried tomato juice but you couldn’t even hold that. Your girlfriend comes over and starts massaging your shoulders and back. It hurts like hell and she has to stop. You can’t have sex with her even though she offers you a little something special. The thing won’t rise, and you don’t really feel like doing anything anyway. Eventually you have to tell her to leave, you want to suffer through this alone.
It goes on like this for seven days. One whole week. You’d just about had it. You’re ready to give in. Then you wake up and it’s over. Just like that. Finally, it’s all over. It’s so sudden. One morning, that’s it. You feel healthy and clean, like you did before you started taking all that shit that has you looking fifteen years older. You kicked the habit. Once the pain’s gone it’s like it never happened. You go outside into the sunlight and feel like a newborn. The world’s so soft and beautiful. Trees blooming. A bunch of flowers over there looking pretty. You want to pick one, put it in a vase and give it to Carl. Wow. It’s something. A wonderful world. You just haven’t seen it right in a long time. You go down the street to a restaurant and eat breakfast without putting the fork on the counter. You’re still hungry and order another plate. You’ve never enjoyed food so much. You go back to the apartment. When you’re there you decide to find a way to put your life back together. You know it won’t be easy. It’s something that’s going to take a hell of a lot more effort than it did to mess it up.
‘Provenance,’ 16 pages, 1978 (dated), a story told from the point-of-view of a Van Gogh painting about art making and the vicissitudes of attraction
Four years I hanged on a wall in Harry Kessler’s Berlin home, fourteen of the finest, most richly decorated rooms you’ll ever see. I had impressive company. Cezannes, Bonnards and Renoirs were on the other walls. They were the friends I shared my time there with. I was the only painting by Vincent that Harry owned. In truth he didn’t like Vincent much, thought he was a crude sensibility, but he wanted to tell his friends and associates he owned one. This was the reason he took me from Ballin. Otherwise he never paid much attention to me. He favored Cezanne’s cold cylindrical abstractions and Bonnard’s mix of pastel colors that I much prefer over Cezanne. Then he gave up on me as Alice had. He didn’t want me for the same reasons Mrs. Land didn’t. Most who’ve desired me for more than my value didn’t have the money. Those who could afford me didn’t want to keep me around long. Plenty more were available to them.
In 1911 the museum director Georg Swarzenski purchased me for the new Stadelsches Kunstinstitute in Frankfurt. I was proud to be one of the museum’s main acquisitions. In Mr Swarzenski’s learned opinion, I was an example of artistic experience transmitted as perfectly and directly as possible. A work of great profundity and true substance. I hoped to stay there forever.
That was a glorious period in my life. Vincent was becoming famous, as was I. Those who loved art identified with the honesty he expressed in his paintings, felt the struggle and tension of his life in them. They must have seen in him, me, their own difficulties exposed.
For twenty years I was secure with my place in the world. Thinking it would last forever. But nothing does. Comfort’s illusory. Political stability too. The climate in Germany changed. People were angry at unseen forces that complicated their lives. They were incited by a single man to do something about it. My friends and I in the Stadelsches Kunstinstitute feared the evil lurking about us. For good reason. The unseen forces stepped out of the shadows. At the Fuhrer’s request Joseph Goebbels took control of the visual arts. The Fuhrer believed modern art was decadent, that Vincent belonged to a long line of depraved artists, that he was a danger to the German people’s morale. On his orders I was taken down and locked away. In that room I dreaded each approaching footstep. I never stopped worrying I would be harmed.
automatically translated from Mandarin
Lead image: Time goes by / Flickr
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