Although J. F. Mamjjasond and I began work on Hoptime in a square-lined composition book which contains on its first page another unrelated Krinstian fragment, it was viewed by us almost immediately as a “work of some length” with a place outside of, if aligned with, the traditional Krinstian canon. For us, its truest and perhaps only appropriate audience, it had and required no title; it was called simply, and as much reverently as mockingly, The Book. When it was time to unveil a part of it on the Institute of Krinst Studies website, the name Hoptime was chosen (from Frog’s line in Chapter XI, “It’s hop time for yours truly"). As I think we were both well aware, giving it a name was in some sense an act of desecration, as for us The Book was a living thing and not an object: intensely profane, horrifying, unrelentingly sophmoric, a work of folly and vice for which no apology or justification could ever suffice, but still a kind of scripture. And yet the temptation to reify it and name it, to present it as if it were a literary accomplishment, as I am now doing, was strong and also an inherent part of its frame. That the book utterly fails to meet the criteria necessary to be any adequate or coherent thing, and yet must be something regardless, is an essential part of its identity, and part of why it could play such a vital and intimate role for its creators.
For a period of several years, we met every few days, and for some intensive periods, daily, sometimes in motels while travelling, to write together in the graph paper notebook, printing in block letters with ink. The paper was thin and the pages took on a palimpsestic appearance as writing from the other side shone through. Despite writing in capital letters, our handwritings were distinct enough that I can still tell who wrote what, although that can usually be determined by the content and style as well.
The rules for composition were simple but strict. Intoxication with marijuana was de rigeur (despite a brief dalliance with sobriety towards the end of the second notebook, which did not really feel right). After smoking, we sat in silence near each other in intense, if narcotically altered, concentration, and took turns continuing what had just been written by the other, passing the book back and forth often without looking at each other. Sometimes we would come out of a reverie to notice that the book and a pen were held outstretched by the other’s hand towards us, the other’s face looking away into the distance. We were not allowed to change what the other had written, and could only append new text at the end, of any length, long or short. Sometimes in a turn one of us might add just a single word or a character (a period, say), or he might add half a page. A typical entry would be three or four lines. Whether to finish a chapter was likewise a decision made by whomever held the pen at that moment. Very often the book would be handed back with the text ending in the middle of a sentence that demanded completion; equally often it would be returned with a continuation that changed the direction implied by what preceded it. Part of the process was accepting the frustration of the mischievousness of the other.
When the evening was complete, two or three pages may have been filled in, and they would be read aloud. Then we would part.
I don’t know exactly when we started the project. Neither of us thought to date the manuscript at the beginning; towards the end of the second volume, when we met irregularly, we did begin that useful but self-conscious practice. But work must have begun in 1990 or 1991, and most of the first volume was written in the first couple of years, before I moved from New Jersey, where we both had lived, to Upper Manhattan. By 1994, most of the second volume was done, but from now on the pressures of life and work made our meetings increasingly infrequent. The last dated entry in the second volume is April 8th, 2000, shortly before J. F. moved to San Diego. We met only once after that, in California in 2001, but were not able to write on that occasion. For a brief period we did pick up writing in a similar way online, but it was a less satisfying experience and not much was done. I include that document here as a kind of postlude.
For the two of us, I feel that the Book was a kind of imaginary life we had together. It was a life of great intimacy and a kind of chromatic and emotional repleteness, even if it consisted primarily of childish play. That this intimacy was predicated on something absurd and impossible did not make it any less precious. I know that we both took it seriously as something fateful and necessary. And so, despite everything about the artifact that resulted that is unacceptable and embarrassing – the repudiation of form and sense, the sexual violence, the forced vandalizing purplization of any poetic impulse – I claim for Hoptime a special place in the world, not only because it has in fact some inherent virtues in the small – its poetics sometimes strikes home, and I can never read it without laughing uncontrollably – but more importantly, because it was a way for the two of us to love each other in the only way we could, willingly and totally entwined in each other’s foolish, ugly, wise and beautiful words and fantasies, which we heard, supported and forgave. Perhaps the sympathetic reader will feel the spirit of this rapport beneath the noisy surface of this cast-off part of a living thing, this enormous and dreadful basilisk skin.
J. F. Mamjjasond died of pancreatic cancer in 2014 at the age of forty-nine. None of his old friends knew that he was dying; only one knew that he was sick, but he did not know how seriously. Neither did J. F., it seems; when a doctor finally explained that he could not hope to recover, he became so upset that he had to be physically restrained. A few hours later, he was gone.
We spoke rarely after he moved and I had not spoken to him for months when he died. We were both rather depressed and unsatisfied with life, and reluctant to make each other feel worse. Having shared a pipe and a quill with him, twenty years and more ago, leaving these traces behind, is not one of my regrets.
Fafnir Finkelmeyer, December 29, 2014