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Foucault Pencil

Robin Cameron
0.5 × 18.5 × 0.5 cm

‘Foucault and Pencil’ by Lydia Davis:

Sat down to read Foucault with pencil in hand. Knocked over glass of water onto waiting-room floor. Put down Foucault and pencil, mopped up water, refilled glass. Sat down to read Foucault with pencil in hand. Stopped to write in notebook. Took up Foucault with pencil in hand. Counselor beckoned from doorway. Put away Foucault and pencil as well as notebook and pen. Sat with counselor discussing situation fraught with conflict taking form of many heated arguments. Counselor pointed to danger, raised red flag. Left counselor, went to subway. Sat in subway car, took out Foucault and pencil but did not read, thought instead about situation fraught with conflict, red flag, recent argument concerning travel: argument itself became form of travel, each sentence carrying arguers on to next sentence, next sentence on to next, and in the end, arguers were not where they had started, were also tired from traveling and spending so long face-to-face in each other’s company. After several stations on subway thinking about argument, stopped thinking and opened Foucault. Found Foucault, in French, hard to understand. Short sentences easier to understand than long ones. Certain long ones understandable part by part, but so long, forgot beginning before reaching end. Went back to beginning, understood beginning, read on, and again forgot beginning before reaching end. Read on without going back and without understanding, without remembering, and without learning, pencil idle in hand. Came to sentence that was clear, made pencil mark in margin. Mark indicated understanding, indicated forward progress in book. Lifted eyes from Foucault, looked at other passengers. Took out notebook and pen to make note about passengers, made accidental mark with pencil in margin of Foucault, put down notebook, erased mark. Returned thoughts to argument. Argument not only like vehicle, carried arguers forward, but also like plant, grew like hedge, surrounding arguers at first thinly, some light coming through, then more thickly, keeping light out, or darkening light. By argument’s end, arguers could not leave hedge, could not leave each other, and light was dim. Thought of question to ask about argument, took out notebook and pen and wrote down. Put away notebook and returned to Foucault. Understood more clearly at which points Foucault harder to understand and at which points easier: harder to understand when sentence was long and noun identifying subject of sentence was left back at beginning, replaced by male or female pronoun, when forgot what noun pronoun replaced and had only pronoun for company traveling through sentence. Sometimes pronoun then giving way in mid-sentence to new noun, new noun in turn replaced by new pronoun which then continued on to end of sentence. Also harder to understand when subject of sentence was noun like thought, absence, law; easier to understand when subject was noun like beach, wave, sand, sanatorium, pension, do

  1. Foucault Pencil

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