The Mudrickian Ether

by jkatejohnston

17 October 2013

Dear Max,

Sometimes at work I read my blog on my phone. And something about a bit of time having passed and the not-very-convenient reading situation gives me enough distance so that I can see—horrors.

Yesterday I wrote that Enzo is himself and also “Boy Indivisible Now and Forever.” Oh dear. Oh my. I am never, ever safe from these amazing lapses in taste. What a perfect candidate for Johnson’s famous advice that you should read over what you have written, and when you find something that you think particularly fine—strike it out. I usually make mistakes like that when I’m being a bit thinky or essay-ish, like yesterday. I love that kind of writing, but you can lose track of how you sound.

But I like that. I like that you’re always starting all over, that there’s always that risk. You never ever get to be an expert, and that’s a good thing.


A few notes about working on the Mudrick book. I’m not making any decisions. I’m following exactly what Lance Kaplan did when he made the original Mudrick Transcribed, a miraculous book. But there’s enough to do that I have to go slow and get in close, and, as I said a few days ago, it’s a tiny bit like writing. The scanner is wonderful and gets most things right, but there are also plenty of things like:

[laughter] becomes (/al/ghter] or [wl/gilter.] or [wl/gils.]

get becomes gel

I becomes [ or 1

wouldn’t I becomes would”‘1

interesting becomes inter•esting and spell check wants to change it to inter sting.

So restoring the book to what it’s supposed to be feels somewhere between reading and writing. You have that ear-hand-brain connection that you have in writing. It’s entertaining and feels as though it must be making you smarter. Your fingers will know better from now on. (Delusions!)

Strange that it’s ear-hand-brain, not eye-hand-brain. Or maybe it’s both. But what I’m trying to get to is that I’m restoring italics and paragraph breaks, and I’m not checking every decision against the original Mudrick Transcribed as I go. I want to keep moving forward, so I just write (check this) and check it against Lance’s edition later. And it’s almost always the same. I can’t have memorized the paragraph breaks and italics in Lance’s Mudrick Transcribed. I don’t have that kind of brain. So what’s going on?

Lance was listening to Mudrick talk. He had pauses and the changes in Mudrick’s voice to go on. I have the plainest of plain text. But still, I can hear where the emphasis goes. I can hear where the pauses go. It’s all in the words on the page.

You’d think that the Mudrick in Mudrick Transcribed would be so pale and incomplete compared to Mudrick himself with his resonant voice and  wonderful comic timing. But it’s not that way at all. Words on paper have their own emphasis.

By the way, I never met Mudrick. When I talk about his voice and timing, that’s from listening to recordings. I learned of Mudrick’s existence on the day he died. I was taking a class with John Ridland, before I was in CCS, and he told the class, “Marvin Mudrick died today,” and we said, “Who?”


Teresa has reminded me that almost no one knows who Marvin Mudrick is. He was the founder and provost of the College of Creative Studies at UCSB. The book Mudrick Transcribed is exactly what it sounds like, recordings of his classes and talks transcribed word-for-word. All of which sounds pretty unpromising, but the book is freakishly good. Here’s a link. (Amazon says the book is in Dutch, but it’s in English.) I am working on a paperback and Kindle edition.