Read Bartleby, the Scrivener by Contributors to Wikimedia projects

“Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street” is a short story by the American writer Herman Melville, first serialized anonymously in two parts in the November and December 1853 issues of Putnam’s Magazine and reprinted with minor textual alterations in his The Piazza Tales in 1856. In the story, a Wall Street lawyer hires a new clerk who, after an initial bout of hard work, refuses to make copies or do any other task required of him, refusing with the words “I would prefer not to.”

Bartleby, the Scrivener one of the first text I read at university. There is something strange and frustrating about Bartleby. I think ironically about the way in which he lingers long after the novel finishes, especially the phrase, “I would prefer not to.”

One of the interesting things in re-reading such texts is how memory holds up. I remember the refusal to work, even though there was no practical reason not to. This is summed up in the quote from the story:

Nothing so aggravates an earnest person as a passive resistance.

However, what I had forgotten was that there was more to Bartleby than we can ever quite know.

He never spoke, but to answer

In particular, the death due to starvation, highlighting that there might have been more going on.

Read “A, S, D, F” by Saïd Sayrafiezadeh  by Saïd Sayrafiezadeh

Fiction by Saïd Sayrafiezadeh: “What I’m actually engaged in is a white-collar high-wire act without a safety net, where each typo means I have to start over.”

Saïd Sayrafiezadeh story is about the insight provided through boredom. As Sayrafiezadeh explains:

I’ve often imagined that, if my stories could be illustrated as a Venn diagram, it would depict that crucial intersection between the soul and sociology.

I was really intrigued by the discussion of titles and drafts in Sayrafiezadeh’s reflection:

I had no idea how this story would come together, considering that the early drafts were completely unrecognizable and, as I mentioned, the first scene took place in MOMA. My original title was “Now Is the Time for All Good Men to Come to the Aid of Their Country,” which I liked, and which lasted ten drafts, until I sadly saw that it wasn’t capturing what the story was actually trying to do. (The titles I use are critical, as much for me as they are for the reader—they guide me as I write, and I can generally sense when the title is not matching my intention, which is an uncomfortable feeling.) And so at some juncture, some nth iteration, the answer to your question becomes yes, I had all the major elements of the story—the art, the typing, etc.—and I could see clearly how they would eventually fit together. I knew how the “abstraction” of the home row of the typewriter keys was going to mirror the “language” of Abstract Expressionism, and how sitting in an art gallery, typing away on a manual typewriter, would dramatize this. I knew that I would have the “origin story” of the typing class, the vocational emphasis, and the essential phrase that the teacher utters, “A body never forgets,” which has darker implications. It’s at this point in the process that the story ceased being titled “Now Is the Time for All Good Men,” and became “A, S, D, F.” But this final version is so different from the story that I set out to write that I wonder if it’s even fair to say that they’re technically drafts of the same story.