The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

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The skeins of its own legend

Like many of you, I consider myself an unofficial research assistant for Robin’s forthcoming detective story. In that vein I submit Sara Corbett’s totally true, undefinably cool NYT magazine story about the production, preservation, and immanent publication of Carl Jung’s mythical The Red Book, which sounds like something right out of Penumbra’s bookshop.

I’m just going to post part of Corbett’s overture, because I like it so much:

Some people feel that nobody should read the book, and some feel that everybody should read it. The truth is, nobody really knows. Most of what has been said about the book — what it is, what it means — is the product of guesswork, because from the time it was begun in 1914 in a smallish town in Switzerland, it seems that only about two dozen people have managed to read or even have much of a look at it.

Of those who did see it, at least one person, an educated Englishwoman who was allowed to read some of the book in the 1920s, thought it held infinite wisdom — “There are people in my country who would read it from cover to cover without stopping to breathe scarcely,” she wrote — while another, a well-known literary type who glimpsed it shortly after, deemed it both fascinating and worrisome, concluding that it was the work of a psychotic.

So for the better part of the past century, despite the fact that it is thought to be the pivotal work of one of the era’s great thinkers, the book has existed mostly just as a rumor, cosseted behind the skeins of its own legend — revered and puzzled over only from a great distance.

Which is why one rainy November night in 2007, I boarded a flight in Boston and rode the clouds until I woke up in Zurich, pulling up to the airport gate at about the same hour that the main branch of the United Bank of Switzerland, located on the city’s swanky Banhofstrasse, across from Tommy Hilfiger and close to Cartier, was opening its doors for the day. A change was under way: the book, which had spent the past 23 years locked inside a safe deposit box in one of the bank’s underground vaults, was just then being wrapped in black cloth and loaded into a discreet-looking padded suitcase on wheels. It was then rolled past the guards, out into the sunlight and clear, cold air, where it was loaded into a waiting car and whisked away.

Come on. You have to read the rest now. Dan Brown’s crap-ass Freemasons have nothing on this.

September 17, 2009 / Uncategorized


Just earlier today I was wondering to myself: “So like what genre am I writing in exactly?”—and for some reason this phrase occurred to me: “fan fiction for the real world.”

And this story is the perfect example. It is so weird, so cool, so beyond imagination. And yet, in its weird/cool extremity, it doesn’t make you think, like, “okay, good enough”—it makes you want to extend it even further! Mash it up with other stuff. Fill in the gaps with imagined wonders.

Seriously: amazing.

(“Kiki’s Delivery Service meets The Big Sleep” is still my true north, though.)

Tim Carmody says…

As the author of the above Miyazaki + Chandler formula, let me say: You’re welcome. 🙂

That was the intended implication—subtext was supposed to read “good tip, but your previous good tip was even better”

Tim Carmody says…

I know. I just wanted to let people who don’t follow both of us on Twitter in on the reference.

Tim Carmody says…

Did you know that this is the maximum depth for threaded comments? Probably a good thing.

There are people who don’t follow both of us on Twitter??!

The snarkmatrix awaits you

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