(Dick Higgins, pp. 11–17 in Legends & Fishnets; this piece written Autumn 1959, first published in 1960 by Bern Porter as a pamphlet. Back cover copy:
Must a story consist only of what is told? Or can it also lie in the language? Or in the interplay among the ideas and images embodied in the words?
In Legends & Fishnets Dick Higgins sets out to use a whole bevy of unorthodox means of narrative. The legending idea is simply that the image of a person or thing can be reverberated in the mind to ad to its statue – the man or woman may be small, but the shadow can be huge. These stories are told in terms of the shadows and afterimages of the subject. Higgins’s interest in this process is not a recent one – some of the stories were begun as early at 1957, and they were written off and on until 1970. The use of assemblages of participles (and its implicit avoidance of the verb to be) produces a strongly visual effect, heightened by very concrete language. The principle at work is William Carlos Williams’s formula “No idea but in things!” more than some development out of Gertrude Stein’s concept of the continuous present, which these pieces superficially resemble in some ways, and to which Higgins feels sympathetic but unrelated. This the reader will discover when he comes up against Higgins’s emphasis on moral principle (in the lineage of Emerson) and interest in all stages of the time process, not just the present as with Stein.
These stories cover a full range of expression – from the farcical (“Sandals and Stars”) to the comic (“The Temptation of Saint Anthony”) to the nostalgic (“Ivor a Legend”) to the lyrical (“Women, like horses”) and more. If the expression is heightened by the form, then the form is justified. And it is here, on this assumption, that Higgins has hung his hat.
Legends & Fishnets was published by Unpublished Editions in 1976; one notes that Higgins was republishing Gertrude Stein’s work from 1966 to 1973.)