The Community of the No

After months of intending, yet failing, to get to it, I started Enrique Vila-Matas’ Bartleby & Co. this afternoon. Behold one of the best beginnings of a book I’ve come across in a while:

I never had much luck with women. I have a pitiful hump, which I am resigned to. All my closest relatives are dead. I am a poor recluse working in a ghastly office. Apart from that, I am happy. (1)

(That's "Nyet!") from the Points blog.

(That’s “Nyet!”) from the Points blog.

It’s that final sentence that tied it all together for me, that made the enumeration of the narrator’s various conditions or truths something more than a presentation of character. I’m sincerely looking forward to what I’ll find in this little book, which explores “the literature of the No,” (2) writers who’ve insisted on ceasing to publish, who’ve responded with a definitive refusal to others’ demands and importunities that they continue to provide the world with more stories.

Unfortunately, that particular brand of somnolence that comes along with spring pollen hit me full force a few pages in, and now I’m foolishly taking advantage, far too close to my bedtime, of a tall glass of cold coffee that got shoved in the fridge over the weekend. It’s probably best not to think about what sorts of toxic molecular breakdown could occur in an uncovered, BPA-containing jumbler of Joe, but I’m guessing I won’t have much else to fall back on when my caffeinated eyes are helplessly staring at the walls at some point in the dead of night.

Maybe I’ll ponder whether or not I belong in the company of writerly Bartlebys, given my penchant for, in the end, “preferring not to,” when it comes to making a real attempt to churn out anything significant in the realm of literature. That failure to produce is 90% due to sheer doubt-plagued laziness, and only somewhat infused with the conviction that there’s so terribly, terribly much out there already; so many words no one will remember in thirty years, or even three. Why add more to a maddening surfeit of information, I often wonder? And yet, the need to mull over just such questions with someone other than my own self leads me to do exactly what I’m doing now: throwing down another few paragraphs to add to the glut.


(1) Enrique Vila-Matas, Bartleby & Co., transl. Jonathan Dunne (New York: New Directions), 2000: 1.

(2) Ibid., 2.




  1. birds fly

    Ooh…thank you for reminding me of this book! I was excited to read it after discovering it last year, but it must have gotten buried in the deluge of ‘to-reads’ since then. So, 4 stars sounds promising?


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