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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Bartleby on Carmine Street

On Jeopardy! earlier this month, one of the answers was, "In a story of 19th century Wall Street, this title clerk famously replies, 'I would prefer not to.'" The question was, "Who was Bartleby the Scrivener?" That reminded me of Paul Nelson, who in 1982 told the singer/songwriter Greg Copeland: "Sometimes I wish I was like 'Bartleby the Scrivener,' where I just worked away at an office and didn't have to think. Not seriously, but there are times."

On the heels of this comes Raphael Rubinstein's fine article "Bartleby on Carmine Street," in the July-August issue of The Brooklyn Rail. In the course of some richly detailed contemplation about how Paul ended up as a clerk at Steve Feltes's Evergreen Video, the author has some nice things to say about Everything Is an Afterthought: "a heart-breaking book, but also a fascinating one..."

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