Martin Scribler

After the publication of Mason & Dixon, a user by the online name of "Martin Scribler" posted three messages on the Pynchon-L mailing list denouncing many members of that group as "dunces all" for discussing their own neuroses over actual literary discussion. Due to the high quality of Martin Scriblers' posts, their message, and the historical significance of his name, many have speculated that Thomas Pynchon himself wrote these posts.

Origin of the name "Martin Scribler"

"Memoirs of the Extraordinary Life, Works, and Discoveries of Martinus Scriblerus" (1741) was a satire written largely by John Arbuthnot, in collaboraion with Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, John Gay, and others, collectively known as the "Scriblerus Club." [1] This 18th-century British literary club of brilliant Tory wits aimed to ridicule pretentious erudition and scholarly jargon through the person of a fictitious literary hack, Martinus Scriblerus (Scriblerus meaning a writer). [2] The Pynchon-L "Martin Scribler" included the quotation, "From thine own mouth will I judge thee, wicked Scribler!", and it is unknown whether this is from the 1741 text.

The first post

From: "Martin Scribler" <scriblerus@[omitted]>
To: pynchon-l@[omitted]
Subject: Self Indulgence
Date: Thu, 20 Nov 1997 06:20:21 PST

... strange as it may seem, I'm not sure that EVERYONE who receives this list (in the vain hope of participating in a meaningful, useful and interesting debate about a certain writer, perhaps?) is particularly interested by the bickerings of certain self indulgent, boring and (mostly) North American worshippers of Onan.

Still less is the average Pynchon fan glued to his screen whenever various pseudonymous egomaniacs (so much so that they create artificial selves to gain attention) rail against each other - and using a style which is well below the average drunken undergraduate's pleas for attention hardly makes for a more interesting debate. Things occasionally almost get scholarly - these brief interludes are usually interrupted by more vain spoutings from dear old Mitty or the (admittedly more erudite - well, erudite) sZ. ZZZZZzzzzzz. Most of the mail claiming to be at least vaguely to do with literature deals instead with the neuroses of the self obsessed P-listers.

How one must pity the poor students who write in with pleas for references and quick summaries of received wisdom (dressed up in as impressive and obfuscatory language as possible) - are seminars on Pynchon now mostly concerned with the READERS not that which is READ? Hey, of course - the reader is just as important. With the author, if not dead, then gone to ground, you try to stand in for him - sorry, not interesting, not meaningful, just sad, predictable and dull. Dunces all - how appropriate that discussion of a novel set in the eighteenth century should degenerate into a grub street brawl.

Climb out of your own body cavity, Mittelwerk.


>From thine own mouth will I judge thee, wicked Scribler! ______________________________________________________
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The second post

From: "Martin Scribler" <scriblerus@[omitted]>
To: pynchon-l@[omitted]
Subject: Irony?
Date: Thu, 20 Nov 1997 08:47:53 PST

Alas perhaps I should have footnoted.

The main point I was trying to make is that a large proportion of contributions to the list appear entirely self involved, or if they are more than that, seem to be aimed not at a large community of readers (and woodwork lurkers) but at a small group of 'list personalities' intent on the perpetuation of their literary personae. Whether there is a high content of Pynchon in any of them is irrelevant: the point I made still stands unchallenged, that the author and his works are being replaced in the discussion by the contributors themselves.

Which brings me to apologise for the forceful ranting pretentious nature of my comments - but if I had written something more reasonable, poor Scribler would have been ignored.

Drawing fire seemed the only method of distraction that would stand a chance of penetrating your discourse. And arrogance seems to demand (and receive) replies.

The bit about the student was ironic, of course - another way that the discussion list is abused (apart from messages like this) is in its occasional function as a help line.

The vehemence of the replies (I did like "woodwork lurker" - guess I'm not in your gang) proved the point I argued first - impact and appearance are everything to some on this list. Myself, of course, included.


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The third post

From: "Martin Scribler" <scriblerus@[omitted]>
To: pynchon-l@[omitted]
Subject: myself
Date: Fri, 21 Nov 1997 04:20:50 PST

Only a quickie, folks -

Mittelwerk - I had imagined that you were secure enough (virtually) not to feel the need to regress to the playground. I was but a fly buzzing around your elephantine turds. And who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel? (I know...........)

Did anyone really think I was complaining, BTW? Shurely shome mishtake - I was merely mimicking, albeit grotesquely.

And finally - if I'm a woodwork lurker, does that mean people think I've been on the list for more than (what is it now..) three days? Suggesting I've been grubbing about your pearls for a long while might imply that the P-list is always like this.

Buz, buz.

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If Pynchon was Martin Scribler, we know that Pynchon used Hotmail :)


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