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Letters To and From a Remote Island


Dear T_________,

I hope this parcel finds you well. Enclosed is Judith Schalansky's Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot on and Never Will.

And neither will you. Your exile, which is terminal, possesses none

of Napoleon's grandiose end. Perish the thought!

I will state it plainly before you inquire: I feel
no remorse for sentencing you to an eternity of utter solitude and desolation.

Write me if you can.


Dear W________,

I'm glad you sent me a copy of The Atlas of Remote Islands. I have nothing but time to read these days.

There is a small hut, overlooking menacing cliffs, that houses my library.

              I have read every book again and again and
am in the midst of a new cycle. When Jean Valjean finds peace again, it is different than the first time; birthdays come once a year in widening gyres of spiraled negation,
                    punctuated equilibria remarking wholly

on all that’s come before and since the last:
Zorba predictably dances on the beach;

I submit Don Quixote once again to his madness. 

Irony is for idiots.

The people in these pages, the pages of history, are similar to the fictional ones in my thatched roof bibliotheque, I think. Alexander Selkirk was Robinson Crusoe, now his domain is named Robinson Crusoe Island, not unlike my abode now, all the drama of humanity’s thymotic wrestling with the angel there with his Man Friday. I have none

of the conspiracy and collusions of meaning in Lost.  

Just sitting. And thinking. And waves.

Dear T________,

Schalansky’s beautiful meditations on the cartography of the human heart

& its dark destiny

seem far removed from your own plight.

The first rule of living today: You don't have the privilege of aesthetics or authenticity!

If you are looking for banality than look no further than that thousand-yard stare in the looking-glass.

Do you even have a mirror?

Do not try to seduce me into your own madness(es) of frailty and poetry

just because you just now figured out

the movie Groundhog Day

is all about

Nietzsche's Eternal Return.

Keep digging.

I know what the Lightness of Being is, or what I like to call, “antigravitational ontology”.

I think Malcolm Gladwell is writing a book on it.

p.s. I never read Robinson Crusoe.



Dear W__________,

No worries. My vengeance will be exacted on a geologic timescale. Glacial creep. Time destroys all things. Etc.

Of course, as each day fades into

another here without seam or scar

to separate one from the other, I am subject to
all kinds of mad thoughts. I attempt to keep myself in check by banging my head into a coconut tree trunk.

Pain is

I am struck by how I am not included in the book. We have Tristan da Cunha, Christmas Island, Easter Island, one rock in the sea estranged from its archipelago, like orphans from families, but my island isn't listed.

The violence of loneliness.

Then again, I begin to think how many other islands are not here. The islands of cities, the pockets of population
gathered together in concrete and glass hives, one apartment or shack or condo aligned across perpendicular lines
from them, a vector designating its singular isolation from the others.

The very continents themselves.

p.s. Eating vegetarian now and loving it.

Dear T________.,

You’ll break soon. The state’s purview extends into all things and you are certainly within the horizon. Repent.


Colton's map of Long-Island,Map of Long Island and the southern part of Connecticut., Digital ID 1692358, New York Public Library

Dear W__________,

Many make the mistake of believing the film Castaway with Tom Hanks is about Crusoe.

It is not. It is Tennyson’s Enoch Arden. He Who Walks with God.

She describes the adventurers of Cocos Island in search of pirate gold, the nuclear annihilation of Fangataufa,
the prison colony of Norfolk Island;

and what utopians dreamt to escape civilization on Floreana;

the fetid crabs of Clipperton rock.

Stellar’s sea cow is gone, and never coming back.

[Atlas], Digital ID 1703408, New York Public Library

Dear T________.,

You win. I am not a rock, but I am most certainly an island.

I’m arrested by the alienation surrounding me. Lately, each crack and fissure in the edifice of reality seems ready
to let loose the flood, to give purchase on the Lovecraftian strangeness of Deception Island, how
each remote island is a mountain beneath the oceans, books
are axes to break the ice of the frozen seas within us,
each line of flight carries forth baggage of a different kind from one plane to the next,
that Judith’s maps are
, I’m afraid,
indeed the territory


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Love this!

One of the most creative book posts I've ever seen.

Great Post

An eternity of utter solitude and desolation might make me think about the parallels between Groundhog Day and Nietzsche too.....

Thank you. This post was

Thank you. This post was partly inspired by Evan Calder William's Roman Letters and Chantal Akerman's News from Home.

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