Kevin’s Story

Today Kevin and I visited the spot where he found the original, unmarked BOX of books. It turns out a couple details of my story were incorrect:

  1. The white packaging wrapping the books was clean because it hadn’t been removed from its box. I hadn’t recalled a box, but Kevin claims it was a box he found.
  2. He seems to think there were more than five books in the box; more like ten. I could be wrong about the number of books that we found. It could have been ten. Whether it was five or ten, the fact remains that Kevin discovered the box unlabeled beneath that viaduct, intact and dry.

By “intuition”, he means “premonition”, and by “Hostetler”, he means “Hofstadter”.

To clarify: I am not the architect of this little mystery. I haven’t the funding or drive for the experiment, and being untrained in the galaxy of fields the others represent I am not capable of capturing many of the subtleties within the text. I am, however, interested in helping solve the mystery and have taken that side of the project on in my spare time. I’m also intensely interested in the social consequence of shared experience. The first-draft ending of my story:

An Earth of people flashed into my mind, one side of the planet recursively informing the other. I was connected in that moment to people I would never have had cause to meet, as they were to each other and me. Our loop girdled the planet and now, in dropping my note, I’d created a somewhat local loop, the book being the pebble in the social pond. A car passed by my window traveling East, contradicted shortly thereafter by westward pedestrians.

Had the car crashed into the telephone pole on the corner, or lost a hubcap, I would have been connected to that man, his wife, and their dog as we could all be counted as witnesses to the event; as it stood, the car passing wasn’t a shared experience, really, and we’d not be connected on that level, at least not yet. Had we shared the experience, we’d seem as riders on ripples, rolling outward in our lives away from an event which at the time may have made us neighbors, or even acquaintances.”

So: who is dropping stones into our pond?

(      (     (    (   (  ( ((o)) )  )   )    )     )      )

Distribution Theory?

Several of the others  have articles searchable on ResearchGATE, a pond shared with Norfeldt. A simple bot program could mine for names based on keywords and produce a recipient list. Using names and their respective keywords, the same program could return university shipping addresses through a public search engine without much trouble.

Just speculation. Will check back Re: content.

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4 responses to “Kevin’s Story

  1. Hi Levi!

    You are probably the person best positioned to evaluate Hofstadter´s involvement in the production and distribution of BoN, actually having discussed the book with him. To complement your picture I want to share the following:

    1. Yesterday I talked to a German college, a physicist at the Max Planck´s Institute, another receiver of BoN. He reads Swedish (his father is Swedish) and he actually owns a copy of the Swedish edition of GEB from 1985. In it Hofstadter writes (in English) some introductory “Words of Thanks for the Swedish Edition of GEB”: “…I am fortunate enough to have spent some time in Sweden in the mid-60´s, where I made many friends and learned some Swedish. Although my Swedish is far from fluent, I can read it comfortably…” Interesting!

    2. Another observation that might indicate that Hofstadter is more involved in BoN than he admits can be made by comparing the cover of “I am a strange loop” with that of GEB. In GEB he writes his name, “Douglas R Hofstadter”, and in “I am a Strange Loop” he deletes the R, writing his name, “Douglas Hofstadter”. At roughly the same time as “I am a strange loop” is released we see the underground launching of BoN, a loopy book that is centered around GEB, “I am a strange loop” and Douglas Hofstadter. What is interesting is that on page 1 of the actual manuscript in BoN we can read the following: “This letter was received recently from an anonymous sender. Could this be the first and last post-post-modern work?” Greetings from R There it is… the missing R!

    Or maybe I should stop thinking about these loopy things for a while…

  2. One last comment before I leave:

    Another peculiarity which might indicate that “I am a strange loop” and BoN have been coproduced is the choice of illustration for the front cover of BoN, “Drawing Hands” by M.C. Escher. In GEB one can find some forty illustrations by M.C. Escher but in “I am a strange loop” only one, “Drawing Hands”!

  3. I received BON today just as others have described. I am a philosopher of cognitive science and a philosopher of physics, and GEB played a big part in my career choice. Indeed, I was very weirded out by BON because in grad school I had a SLEP seminar with Douglas Hofstadter (DH)–1989; I still have my signed copy of GEB which has an inspiring and flattering inscription as well. It gets weirder though. I am embarrassed to admit that in a PI-like state as an undergraduate I wrote an absurdly long tomb on GEB as a Glass Bead Game (GBG) complete with suggestions for how to formalize such a game–talk about missing the point of Hesse’s book! Flashforward to 1989 where I inexplicably discussed this syncretic bit of juvenalia with DH, unsurprisingly, he wasn’t very moved. If it weren’t for the christian angle of BON I might suspect that BON is to DH what leaving the GBG was to JK. Maybe this is DH way of saying: “all that I have written seems like straw to me” and the christian twist as such is just to throw us off the scent. If so, I hope DH doesn’t decide to take any long swims anytime soon. I also hope some small portion of what we children of GEB produce isn’t merely just scholastic garbage; I still adore GEB and GBG, I hope I feel that way about ANY of my work in the future. How’s that for a secular prayer.

  4. @ Alvaro: I apologize for the hiatus I’ve taken from this project, and am moreso ashamed to have left you hanging. It may sound bizarre, but thinking about this was affecting my perception in a way incompatible with my real-life need to finish undergrad. Things darkened some for me, and I had to quit reading GBG a hundred pages shy of the end. Had I been living an unburdened life, I might have seen this through as far as it would go.

    To answer you: In spite of my proximity I remain as far from Douglas Hofstadter as any of you. He is a kind man but lacking training in the sciences I find myself halting in conversation with him, feeling naive and exposed as ignorant. These feelings have NOTHING to do with him, I assure you. The root embarrassment, the seed-nut catalyst of my hesitation centers on the video you’ve seen of my initial verbal telling of the story.

    While true to the best of my ability, I without thinking claimed that many women were present in his house. Here, according to Dr. Hofstadter, my perception failed (I learned of the historical discrepancy from J.R., the British journalist) I sent an unprompted apology to him for any public slight or slander he suffered due to my recklessness (I never thought anyone would identify with my story, and made the video to test a new set of filters my friend, the videographer, had recently downloaded). We are now on cordial terms and don’t share correspondence.

    Finally, your ideas are fascinating. They lend themselves to following in the noir tradition of this tale and are just esoteric enough to potentially hold a grain of truth. The issue I’m taking, however (lending credence here), is that you haven’t provided a counterpoint to either of them! Is it so bizarre that someone named “Hofstadter” has spent time in Sweden? Germany’s not so far; perhaps he’s had cause to be there for family reasons. Also: How fluent can a person become in a language after 40 years? My answer: Very. What do you think?

    The “R” thing is really cool, and took some sleuthing. What else could it mean?

    @Michael: You received the book YESTERDAY?? Phenomenal. Must be a third wave, or at this point, a fourth. I’m impelled to cast my vote for “memetics” here. Someone is trying to connect academy thinkers on a world scale by forcing a common event to occur in all of your lives. I am a fly in the ointment, though, as you’ve no doubt gathered. After my grad school apps go out, I’m taking up the yoke again on working this mystery. Funny story: I told all this during the IU Writer’s Conference this summer and was approached by one woman whose daughter ranks in the US intelligence community. She (the woman, not the daughter) said it wouldn’t be a problem to find out who was who in this, but I declined. It’s much more fun to ruminate alone, and who likes pre-chewed food?

    At any rate, I’m sure there are people monitoring this blog for any news on the subject of the book, and am sure in some cases that they would be greatly entertained to read your undergraduate paper, should you still have it. Personally, I would love to read it and publish it here as PDFs much like I’ve made available BoN and the Conan Doyle story. No worries if you don’t have it; your content would add a shade of strangeness to this story that would illuminate rather than obscure its plot, don’t you think?

    Your keen comparison of this real-life episode with its predecessor in GBG could shed light on motivations behind BoN. I’m inclined to wonder, though: why another book, regardless of its content and guerrilla distribution method? Would this little book also be considered “straw”? The theme carries: “The symbol can never be the thing itself.”, meaning that all the ideas and characters spilled on pages from the beginning of written communication have one characteristic in common: they’re symbols! They’re easily recognizable, designed for mass communication and inherently cropped of meaning to accommodate consumption at trough. The crowning achievement of language is its direst failure, in other words. I’m barfing platitudes, of course, and realized it when I began thinking about this, but I suspect in my heart of hearts that this line draws near to the spine of this thing. If what you say carries water, I also smell a hint of fractal geometry at work on someone’s mind, but in a literary/philosophical/cognitive sense; fractal thinking, I think is what it could be called, or the literally endless and fruitless deconstruction of thought into its component parts, which in their tiniest, simplest form are their larger, more complex children in miniature…looking at human brain evolution in reverse is a salient corollary, in terms of anatomy…I don’t know how to explain this concept better than the phrase “fractal thinking” does. 😦

    Literally, I am 100% untrained and bumbling. Sorry.

    And that’s as fine a secular prayer as any of its religious cousins. 🙂

    I’ve often wondered about the structure imposed in the academy in terms of fiction writing and have marveled at how neutered a lot of it reads. Can the same be said of the avalanche of academic papers published in scientific journals? Does the academy train us to chip away at a problem over years rather than seize its heart in an instant? I don’t know answers to these questions. What do you think?

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