CRAIG CONLEY (Prof. Oddfellow) is recognized by Encarta as “America’s most creative and diligent scholar of letters, words and punctuation.” He has been called a “language fanatic” by Page Six gossip columnist Cindy Adams, a “cult hero” by Publisher’s Weekly, and “a true Renaissance man of the modern era, diving headfirst into comprehensive, open-minded study of realms obscured or merely obscure” by Clint Marsh. An eccentric scholar, Conley’s ideas are often decades ahead of their time. He invented the concept of the “virtual pet” in 1980, fifteen years before the debut of the popular “Tamagotchi” in Japan. His virtual pet, actually a rare flower, still thrives and has reached an incomprehensible size. Conley’s website is OneLetterWords.com.
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A Turkish Delight of musings on languages, deflations of metaphysics, vauntings of arcana, and great visual humor.
Go Out in a Blaze of Glory

Today — December 20, 2014 (permalink)



A candle from The Baby's Museum by Uncle Charlie, 1882.

November 22, 2014 (permalink)



A self-portrait by Prof. Oddfellow.

November 11, 2014 (permalink)

From Lavengro; The Scholar, the Gypsy, the Priest by George Henry Borrow, 1896.  The caption reads, "There is nothing like flinging the bones!"



October 24, 2014 (permalink)



The text reads:

If this little world to-night
  Suddenly should fall through space
In a hissing, headlong flight,
   Shrivelling from off its face,
As it falls into the sun,
   In an instant every trace
Of the little crawling things—
   Ants, philosophers, and lice,
Cattle, cockroaches, and kings,
   Beggars, millionaires, and mice,
Men and maggots all as one
   As it falls into the sun—
Who can say but at the same
   Instant from some planet far
A child may watch us and exclaim:
   "See the pretty shooting star!"

September 5, 2014 (permalink)

"[At the] centre of the dark vault of heaven this glittered," from It Is Never Too Late to Mend by Charles Reade, 1856.



September 2, 2014 (permalink)




August 7, 2014 (permalink)

Thanks to USA TODAY's 10Best for featuring two of our photographs of La Cañada's Descanso Gardens.  (See larger versions of the shots here and here.)

May 3, 2014 (permalink)

An illustration from an 1844 issue of Punch magazine.



March 15, 2014 (permalink)

It's a Retroactive Lifetime Goal* for us to have captured in a single photograph the look and feel of California environmental quality. Thanks, Los Angeles Conservancy, for featuring our wide-angle view of Los Feliz as your masthead.


 
*The phrase "Retroactive Lifetime Goal" appears courtesy of Jonathan Caws-Elwitt.

February 23, 2014 (permalink)

Thanks to Geeks2point0 for featuring our photo of our books arranged by color in a piece about how "geeks hatch from bookworms."



February 22, 2014 (permalink)

We're honored by this piece by Gary Barwin.



February 16, 2014 (permalink)

Thanks to the Working Harbor Committee of NY/NJ for featuring our photo of the tall ship El Galeón.



February 15, 2014 (permalink)

From our former outpost at Twitter:

A pro said the children's book I'm writing is 130 pages too long (& nearly referred me to a shrink), unaware I specialize in the impossible.

January 14, 2014 (permalink)

Here we are catching some rays in a tucked-away little place some folks will recognize.


A self portrait of Prof. Oddfellow.

October 25, 2013 (permalink)

To our utter delight, Dr. Menachem Feuer analyzes our Franzlations according to Schlemiel Theory.  Here's just a snippet:

They have created a book that speaks to anyone who is interested not just in reading Kafka but in, so to speak, taking his work as the basis for new texts, images, and interpretations that "open” up the text to play and new meaning. Moreover, this book speaks to people who are well versed in what is called "intertextuality.” And by this I mean the textual practice of moving between texts which, in effect, offers new meanings (I will return to this below).

But I would argue that since Franzlations also includes images, one text doesn’t simply translate into another; it also translates a text into another image (or rather a set of images which harken back to the early 20th century). By doing this, this book takes the work of Kafka into a wholly other sphere of meaning with an entirely different register of connotations. And for someone like myself, who loves textual play, this is doubly exciting. It brings us into the zone where Walter Benjamin, in his book Berlin Childhood around 1900, wanted to go; namely, to a space where the imagination can be freed by virtue of the play of images, text, and history. In this space, one becomes like a man-child, interpreting text, images, and history while at the same time playing with them. This touches on depths by way of traveling across different surfaces.

I’d like to take a look at the interplay between text and text and text and (historical) image to illustrate how these texts open up horizons that I have not experienced in any previous academic readings or fictional plays on Kafka’s novels, short stories, or parables (as in Phillip Roth, Paul Celan, or Aharon Appelfeld’s work—to mention only a few examples of writers who engage in intertextuality with Kafka’s work).


October 21, 2013 (permalink)

Here's the secret of dying happily, courtesy of E. V. Lucas, Windfall's Eve (1930):

Keep on altering your will.  Every time you alter it, you make it more amusing and thus become the more ready to pop off in order that the joke may begin.  It's infallible.

May 29, 2013 (permalink)

From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook, for a Tumblr acquaintance:



May 5, 2013 (permalink)

If only all terrible reviews could be of this caliber, fewer authors might be driven to drink.  Dr. Thomas Hodd, of the Université de Moncton, reviewed our Franzlations (a guide to the imaginary Kafka parables) for the Journal of Canadian Poetry, Volume 28.  Long story short, our book is worse than cancerous poetry (quite literally, he says it compares unfavorably to a specific book of poems about cancer that should have been left on the hospital bed and not published).  Franzlations, he says, is "more like an artifact than a book of poetry" — criticism we will take on the chin with a British stiff-upper-lip (as it were).  Our "images and phrases begin to resonate, although for what purpose is unclear since the esotericism implied within these pages feels contrived, and ultimately fails to extend beyond the pages of the book" — to which I retort, "That's what they said about The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus!"  But in all seriousness, esoteric is defined as being intended for a small number of people with a specialized knowledge, so if the esotericism of Franzlations were to be unleashed from the pages of the book, it would transmute into exotericism (intended for the general public), an idea that causes our corrosive juices to reflux.  As we meditate upon Dr. Hodd's scathing conclusion, we have to smile (enigmatically, to be sure), because to be "neither poetry nor art," neither words nor images, is very Zen.  Dr. Hodd has inadvertently acknowledged that we've attained enlightenment.

March 18, 2013 (permalink)

First the good news:

We just noticed a lovely review of One-Letter Words: A Dictionary, courtesy of Virginia Durksen over at Goodreads: "What's not to love? I confess to being a reader of dictionaries. Not a regular reader, but a frequent browser, when the sun is shining and a word has caught my eye. Conley pulls together a list—this inspires more lists in me. I want to add things to this dictionary. The publisher should create a volume with spaces to add things, for word collectors. And, goodreads should add an option for re-reading, never stop reading, use it all the time. That would be this book."

But it's not all good news.  An unrefined person over at Goodreads ripped our dictionary of one-letter words 26 new anal cavities.  (Googling "does a book have an anus?" delivers zero results, so ours may be a world first!)  Forget the fact that our dictionary has been remaindered for years and was, in fact, dead in the marketplace before it ever debuted (see our interview with Janet Boyer for the lurid backstory).  Why condemn when you can create?  This gauche person stated that he's pretty sure he could do a better job.  So why doesn't he?  The more dictionaries of one-letter words, the better!  But actual creators and innovators are few and far between.  We don't have time to write paragraphs of derision toward other people's work -- we're too busy marching to rain on someone else's parade.

March 17, 2013 (permalink)

Thanks, poet rob mclennan, for saying that our Franzlations "read like an illustrated translation or even continuation of Kafka’s work. ... The three authors work absurd movement, incredible wisdom and clarity, reading nearly as an extended essay-as-response on the work of Franz Kafka."





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