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Introduction by Mike Hoolboom
Has a sperm whale ever written a book? Melville posed the question in a book that never stopped haunting Mike, even as he wrestled with the words that flowed effortlessly out of him in conversation, but so very slowly when he stopped to write them down. But gradually, over the years, and often in the most trying of circumstances, he managed to set some of his language on paper, and when it finally appeared, glowing in the margins, it was like no writing we had ever seen before. It wasn’t the long promised novel of course, that would have been too much spotlight to bear, instead he cozied up to the marginal film work of his pals. He would reinvent the essay as a form of friendship, celebrating the fragment, the unfinished thought, the tangential and radically incomplete. He managed five essays in all, and along the way scribbled out texts for movies that he finished year after year without telling anyone about them. The making required privacy above all in order for the project to continue. As if the name, the act of naming which remains at the heart of writing, was a nearly unbearable pressure, and one that needed to be born alone, until now.

Somehow in silence, I traveled home to here asleep, trying to think, to pull what I’d once felt out of the shadows. I had to make a leap into the not-yet-conscious, into the truth and absolution of images and sounds, toward the countenance of something still nameless. The only means of doing so was to find and found this thing. This nameless thing that emerges, as I do, again and for the first time, into the world, and will never leave it. This thing of love’s black sail. This foundered foundling thing. This thing of you.

The gusts of wind were very hard and the night very dark, but our little whaleboat glided away like a thing of life. (Ithaca, video, 2000)


Tom Jones (1977)
Emma (1977)
The Wild Bunch (1977)
Notes on a Presentation (1991)
Scene de naufrage: Reading The Lover with Blanchot (1991)
Eat the Book (1992)
Experience Torn to Shreds/Experiments From the Granary (1992)
Sublimation Thing (1993)
Faulker archive (1993)
Writing and the Law (1993)
Jonathan Edwards/Odalisque: a decoupage (1993)
Some Vocal Current Electric: Melville’s Faith (1993)
Landscape With Shipwreck (2000)
Stet (2002)
I Come Here For The Rites Of Your Unworlding (2008)
Mike Cartmell book (2009)
Flintmaker (2012)

Writings on My Films
Outline: Working Title “Egypt” (1984)
Filmmaker’s Statement (1985)
Working title “Shaman” (1986)
Reconnaissance (1986)
Statement (1987-88)
June 1988 to do list (1988)
Non-compatibles (2000)
Howemania (2000)
Letter to Mitch (9 November 2002)
Shipwreck Series (2002)
Dear Mike (2006)

O, Fortuna (video, 2007)
Room (video, 2007)
What Talking Means (video, 2006)
Blin (video, 2005)
vocable [outline for Vocables] (video, fragments)
Kletis [fragmentary outline] (video, fragments)
Epistolary (video, work-in-progress)
Clay Shards Bind Clay (video, 2004)
The Science of Singularity (video, 2004)
Ithaka (video, 2001)
Ithaca (video, 2000)
Cartouche (16mm, 1986)
In the Form of the Letter “X” (16mm, 1985)
Prologue: Infinite Obscure (16mm, 1984)

Other things
Bad Timing (?)
The Derrida Dream
untitled [Silk soft the thing he’s pent to say] (1997)

Dear Mike (2006)

Uncompleted/unpublished writing
I Am Evelyn” (on David Gatten)
“Let Me Take My Chances On The Wall Of Death” (on Vincent Grenier)
“Cadavers” (on Maurice Blanchot)
“The Fragment Asks A Question” (on Maurice Blanchot)
“Love’s Black Sail” (on Susan Howe)
“How To Film A Poem” (on Susan Howe)
“Sans” (on Chris Marker)
Orphanhoodedness” (on Herman Melville)
“Tats” (on Herman Melville)
“Plump Upon Billy Lieutenant Radcliffe Pounced” (on Melville)
“The Making Of The Making” (on Francis Ponge)
Non Facilis Descensus Averni” (on depression)
“Bone Deep In The Sunken Ark Of Bones” (memoir?)
“Seeking And Not Finding And Seeking And” (on blues)

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