Sue, Grabbit, & Runne
May 4, 1998
Dear Mr Gaddis:
Pursuant to the recent notification that you plan to publish a work of non-fiction entitled “Agape Agape,” please note that a Mr. Jack Gibbs has retained us to initiate a lawsuit prohibiting you from publishing said work. As the enclosed affidavit indicates, Mr. Gibbs believes he has sufficient evidence, both real and direct, to prove that the above mentioned work was in fact initiated by him over twenty years ago, and that any claim by you of ownership constitutes both fraud and infringement of intellectual property statutes.
We have enclosed an unedited copy of Mr. Gibbs's complaint, together with a summary judgment scenario compiled by a legal scholar whose sagacity in such manners is unparalleled. We encourage you to consider these enclosures carefully before pursuing publication of “Agape Agape”: Mr Gibbs has ensured us that he will spare no expense or effort in resolving this matter to his satisfaction. Further, our affiliate firm of Dewey, Cheetham, & Howe informs us that their client Mr. Thomas Eigen would be willing to join with Mr. Gibbs in a joint action regarding ownership of the play “Once At Antietam.” Both clients remind you that their good names and reputations are not without value.
James Concannon III, esq.
Artemis Basie, esq.
[The following is a summary judgment scenario created for this office by an eminent legal scholar known to all parties concerned as the venerable Judge Crease. Judge Crease, having arisen from the fictional grave Mr. Gaddis had unceremoniously dumped him in three years ago to find himself in the position of, if not the light at least the resurrection of the Common Law, has agreed to review the facts of the dispute without prejudice.]
“ Having filed briefs on the subject of ownership of intellectual property between author and character, plaintiff's attorney Mr. James Concannon has moved before the bar (having avoided Mr. Gaddis's attempt to have him cross it) to waive trial and proceed with a summary judgment. Mr. JR Vansant, as attorney for the defendant, concurs.
The matter at hand involves the disputed ownership, both in origin and expression, of the ms. Entitled “Agape Agape,” a work of non-fiction whose primary subject is the mechanization of the arts along with a critique of the order/disorder that results. Defendant claims sole ownership of this property, citing the obscure rubric of English Common Law “This fiction's all your own.” Plaintiff demurs, citing case law which grants fictional characters, once created, a measure of independent existence which extends to any and all creative efforts ( Six characters, et. al v. Pirandello , Atlantic City 112, 1932).
Having reviewed all material deemed relevant, the court has concluded the legal crux to be the status of a fictional father, his rights and responsibilities regarding his narrative offspring.
Before proceeding with this issue, items considered at deposition must be noted.
First,the request for dismissal on the basis of the defendant adhering to T.S. Eliot's rejoinder “Bad Poets borrow, good poets steal” because of the vagaries of artistic temperament is found to be without legal merit, too close both in matter and art to the argument made by St Augustine of Hippo to the effect “Grant me chastity & continence, but not yet” ( C 8.7.17).
As to the defendant's claim that the work in question should be considered the 1965 missing link in a planned tetralogy: this subterfuge having already been played out with reference to the discovery of Aristotle's ‘missing' masterpiece on comedy (Name of the Rose Industries, Inc. v. Eco, 1980), the argument is found to be without merit
With the dispatch of these items, the court may now turn to the central issue facing the court.
Plaintiff's argument based on the concept of father hood as but a mystical estate (cf “ Amor matris , subjective and objective genitive, may be the only true thing in life. Paternity may be a legal fiction” ( Dedalus v. Dedalus 564 NY 811, 1904), is summarily rejected, pace the defendant's assertion that he has no working knowledge of Irish Modernism. Since plaintiff's argument, strangely enough gleaned from the same source, that “it is provable by algebra that his grandson is defendant's Grandfather and that he himself is the ghost of his own father” opens up consideration of both the controversial dogma of the filioque and the subtleties of the Sabilliun Heresy; the court, in order to avoid being obscured in clouds of theology, sides with the defendant's position, citing as did Clement of Alexandria in Psalms 29: “The Lord is on many Waters.”
Citing “Freud v. Lacan, et al, 1973,” Mr Vansant notes that, in the manner of the defendant's afore mentioned spiritual mentor TS Eliot, ‘Between the phallus and the penis falls the pizzle,' which, given the defendant's preference for things Mithraically bullish, in turn establishes said author as the spermatic logos of his fictional progeny, an argument the court finds compelling. Acknowledging Lacan's concept of “In-The-Name-Of-The-Father”
as crucial to the communicative function of language, the court concurred, agreeing to stipulate provisionally the legal existence of the fictional father pending further evidentiary investigation of his rights to appropriate and hold as his own all property created by his offspring.
In examining the general field of Art in order to find evidence in this matter, the court is forced to cede the aesthetic variant of Gresham's Law, viz “bad art drives out good.” The court perceives art in a time of cultural vandalism, Count Basie's reputed skill of making a single piano note swing having been replaced by the mechanical pulse of bass-E notes throbbing randomly through car floorboards, no stronger evidence that the machinery of art has broken down so irreparably that there remains nothing to left to do but exploit the conditions of its collapse, as shown in the landmark case resulting in the ascendancy of what curator John Sarkowski labeled the ‘significantly banal' to the status of art ( Good Taste et al v John Sarkowski/MOMA ; 232 NY 108,1975; Gaddis v. MAMA 232, NY 474, 1975)
The triumph of upper vulgaria in the field of art is no less evident in the audience it wishes to attract. This audience, defined by Miller v. California 1973 as the “average person” who, educated by Kindercare, fed by McDonalds, entertained by Time Warner and defined by the male adolescent values of waste, violence, and copulation, has become the sole arbiter of what Miller describes as “that which lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” Seeking release rather than edification, it is no wonder that the new stewards of the aesthetic covenant are accountants for whom the only ‘story' worth producing for this audience is one rich in special effects, a happy ending, and the hint of a sequel--style in search of a subject.
Derrida's jokes about copyright & property in Limited inc notwithstanding, academic criticism on the matter of the fictional father cannot be counted upon, having become a form of translation which annihilates that which it claims to illuminate. Existing as it does to meet the institutional requirements of the university and sped along by the beguilements of poststructuralist theory , the resulting death by exegesis (cf Judge Holmes' “sentence first, verdict afterward--it's the oldest rule in the book”) recalls Eco's William of Baskerville listening to Jorge's sermon on the Antichrist: “It seemed his own portrait.”
Clearly from this testimony the court must conclude that the pursuit of the concept of the fictional father lies outside the purview of normal investigative procedures to which jurisprudence is bound.
The foregoing notwithstanding, before finding for plaintiff on the action before the court set forth in his motion for a preliminary injunction barring publication of any sort of the ms. “Agape Agape,” the court acknowledges that the desire for the father resembles the haunting apparition of Eliot's “Who is the third who always walks beside you?” But, despite the promise of return in Isaiah , “You shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and hills before you shall burst into song ( Isa . 55;12), it is apparent that today Joyce's question “Who is the father of any son that any son should love him or he any son?“ remains unanswered, the prodigal fictional father, with a parting nod to Kafka, having failed to return. In this instance the venerable Bertrand Russell's thoughts ring true: “ To teach how to live with uncertainty, and yet without being paralyzed by hesitation, is perhaps the chief thing that the law in our age can still do for those who study it.” Evidence for the rights & claims of the fictional father, such as they may be, must be found to lie elsewhere. Paternity, like Justice, appears to be reserved for the next world; in this world, as Mr. Concannon's great grandmother would attest, you get the unswerving punctuality of chance.
For the reasons set out above, summary judgment is granted to plaintiff as to preliminary injunction.”
[RE: unedited deposition by Jack Gibbs]
Don't listen look I want the God-Damned thing stopped that's what I want! Same God-damn smoke screen he used 50 years ago “what's the artist but the dregs of his work?” then steals quotations throws them at anything he can think of that nonsense about we all study with Titian wants us to think of him in a similar vein--Titian at ninety so arthritic had his paint brushes tied to his hands “always searching” he said. God-damned right what he's searching for is to market my book “Agape Agape!” Thought he could keep me reading page 35 of Broch's Sleepwalkers for 22 years finally read the last line “we are all here” God-damned right won't surprise me if Gaddis promotes “Agape Agape” as the missing link the ‘65 book that slots right in between The Recognitions and J R in his ten-year plan. Think he cares about the truth? Read what he wrote more interested in what really happened look what he did to Tom Eigen lets young Crease in A Frolic take credit for the play Tom was writing in J R . Poor Crease butchers it winds up with the pages soaked in Pinot Grigio dabs of peanut butter everywhere the man's a menace thinks he can pass off all of his characters as carpenter gothic “a hodgepodge of good intentions like one last effort at something worth doing” indeed! God damned hypocrite that's what he is thinks he cares about his characters? Makes fun of Hemingway think that kept him from traipsing down to Key West this winter? Lester followed him down turns out Gaddis paints the town in the style of the good Rev. Gwyon keeps a bottle of Schnapps in a hollowed out copy of The Old Man And The Sea sits at that god-damned player piano pretending he's sharpening his fifths rather than drinking them keeps singing the same god-damned refrain “Don't shoot! Don't shoot. . . .”
Gregory Comnes writes: After a weekend visit to Gaddis in Florida, inspired by our discussion regarding the thorny subjects of influences, copying & plagiarism in his work, I wrote my own parody reflecting the concerns of humor and collaboration. The piece takes as its subject the “double reading” of “Agape Agape” as at once a fragment within J R and as the unpublished (at the time) stand-alone work Agape Agape. The collaborative bridge, borrowing both a central character Judge Crease and the strategy of litigation from A Frolic Of His Own, involves the fictional character Jack Gibbs, author of the unfinished ms “Agape Agape” in J R, filing suit to prevent Gaddis from claiming authorship of the second, stand alone Agapé Agape ms. The crux of the case involves the nature and limits of the rights and responsibilities an author owes to his characters.
However one might judge the merit of this parody, its ultimate significance for me was determined by the brief but au point response Gaddis offered as ”A Memo From. . ./The J R Family Of Companies,” at once keeping the fiction going while nicely hiding the author behind his own parodic screen. In a later phone call, Gaddis nailed every one of the allusions I had included, including the ones from Ulysses!