Topical Guide 1
I am one of the characters in The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy. I’m an unaffiliated sociologist with a special interest in the history and dynamics of interpersonal behavior.
Among my publications are the following:
“You Keep Singing About Champagne, but I See You’re Serving Beer”
“There’s One Born Every Minute, and I’m My Own Grandpa: Auto-Gullibility”
“Fuck You, Asshole: The Death of Civility in Everyday Discourse”
I See by Your Outfit that You Are a Cowboy: How We Look the Part
I Know I’m Right (Correct Me If I’m Wrong): a Study of the Acceptance and Dissemination of Notions that Are Wrongheaded, Boneheaded, and Just Plain Emptyheaded
How Come You Do the Things You Do? (A Study of Motivation)
Wit, Grace, and Style: Recognizing the Best of Human Endeavor from Its Artifacts
Hats in Fiction
“Mine Eyes Have Seen the Eyes of My Beholder”
“From the Bottom of the Deck: A Technique for Getting Your Notes in Order”
“They Often Call Me Speedo: A Look at the Way We Name Names”
“What Do You Want to Be If You Grow Up?” (in Children at Risk)
“The Dorset Diagram and How to Use It,” (reprinted in Sociology Made Visible)
“The Door Was Open, So I Let Myself In: ‘Natural’ Curiosity as a Motive for Action”
For years, I have been intending to write a confessional memoir in encyclopedic form; if I ever get around to writing it, I will call it The Topical Autobiography of Mark Dorset. So far, I’ve written only four entries: “Affectation,” “Autumn’s Promise,” “Idleness,” “Malice,” and “Honesty” (which appeared in Issue Number 7 of The Babbington Review).
I am the husband in every sense but the legal one of both of the Glynn twins, Margot and Martha, and together we have two daughters, Martha and Margot. (Each of the twins named her daughter for her sister.)
I will be annotating the installments in the Personal History as they appear, drawing on my personal familiarity with much of what you will read there.
I think that my inability to make anything but the tiniest, inconsequential steps toward writing The Topical Autobiography of Mark Dorset has made me feel that I’m something like a mollusk.
Here. Consider this:
You are a man of leisure, a sleepwalker, a mollusc. The definitions vary according to the hour of the day, or the day of the week, but the meaning remains clear enough: you do not really feel cut out for living, for doing, for making; you want only to go on, to go on waiting, and to forget.
Such an outlook on life is generally not much appreciated in modern times: all around you, all your life, you have seen the esteem in which action is held, and grand designs, and enthusiasm: man straining forward, man with his gaze fixed on the horizon, man looking straight ahead. A clear gaze, a purposeful chin, a confident swagger, stomach held in. Staying power, initiative, strokes of brilliance, success: all of these things map out the too transparent path of a too exemplary existence, constitute the sacrosanct images of the struggle for life. . . .
You . . . have ceased going forward, but that is because you weren’t going forward anyway.
— Georges Perec, A Man Asleep, translated by Andrew Leak
I still have my hopes. I may do it yet.
. . . that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
— Tennyson, “Ulysses”
Let’s get on with the annotations.
The overall title of the work, The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy is inspired by, stolen from, or (let’s be generous) is an homage to Dickens’s full title for David Copperfield:
File under: Personal History; Title; Dickens; David Copperfield
There. I’ve begun. I wasn’t sure that I was actually willing to take on this task of preparing a topical guide to the Personal History, but I find that I’ve enjoyed it—so far. I hope that you, reader, have enjoyed the result. M. D.
The Topical Guide continues after Episode 2 of the Personal History.
Have you missed an episode or two or several?
You can begin reading at the beginning or you can catch up by visiting the archive or consulting the index to the Topical Guide.
You can listen to the episodes on the Personal History podcast. Begin at the beginning or scroll through the episodes to find what you’ve missed.
You can ensure that you never miss a future issue by getting a free subscription. (You can help support the work by choosing a paid subscription instead.)
At Apple Books you can download free eBooks of “My Mother Takes a Tumble,” “Do Clams Bite?,” “Life on the Bolotomy,” “The Static of the Spheres,” “The Fox and the Clam,” “The Girl with the White Fur Muff,” and “Take the Long Way Home,” the first seven novellas in Little Follies.
You’ll find an overview of the entire work in An Introduction to The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy. It’s a pdf document.
A week ago a friend gave me a copy of “The Selected Letters of Charles Dickens.” I also started listening to “Martin Chuzzlewit”. It seems I am returning to Dickens, after a long hiatus. Ten years ago I read everything he published as well as the major biographies. I have read all of “The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy” but I have not re-read much of it. I am looking forward to plunging back into the world Eric Kraft has created.