No. 1

A Reading Guide

Guide cover(This guide has been turned into a free eBook now available on Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.) 

It’s no secret that my first fiction book, No. 1, is a bit of an enigma. Anyone who sets out to read it may be perplexed or perhaps even annoyed. It’s an odd book, but something I couldn’t help myself to write. I loved writing it. And I still think it’s a great book, something I find myself re-visiting regularly to enjoy. But here I wanted to put together a reading guide for the perplexed, not to explain everything, because I think the search is a part of the fun; instead, this guide will give an overview of some of the major themes, motifs, and influences, as well as a clear explanation of the story-line. You don’t need to have read the book already to benefit from this guide, because it also acts as a kind of introduction to the book, encouraging you to take the leap into the strange new world of No. 1 I’ve tried to craft. At the end I offer an extended preview of the book for this reason.

Introduction

I had more fun writing No. 1 than I’ve had writing really anything else I’ve done so far. As much as I enjoy writing non-fiction, my usual interest, I found great joy in writing this.  And that’s really where the book came from. I had no plans of ever actually publishing it. I told no one, not even my wife, that I was writing it. It wasn’t until I had finished tweaking it obsessively, and wasn’t quite sure where to go from there, that I told anyone. My wife and a friend who’s also a fellow-author were the only two people I dared to share it with, and they both encouraged me to give it a try. So here we are. I am incredibly pleased with the book, I often pick it up just to laugh once again at one of the many puns or absurdities I’ve written there.

I wrote No. 1 for me. I don’t really care if you like it or not, because I like it. Though, like any author, I do hope you at least give it a try and read it. Even if you hate it, I’ll still be exceedingly glad you tried.

I like weird things; I can’t help myself. I’m one of those guys who loves going to modern art museums and actually finds the weirdest art interesting. I love abstract expressionism especially, artists like Pollock and Rothko are my favorites, but really anything new and innovative I enjoy. The same goes for music and literature. Give me John Cage over Bach, Philip Glass over Beethoven, Steve Reich over Mozart, Samuel Beckett over Charles Dickens, or James Joyce over Jane Austen. I respect the classics, of course, but I get far more excited and I feel more alive, more myself, surrounded by all things avant garde.

And that’s really the only other thing you need to know about this book. It’s weird because it’s my book, something I wrote for myself, the kind of book I’d want to read. But I hope it’s beyond just weird for the sake of being weird. I hope you can also find here something compelling and even meaningful. Yes, there is meaning in these strange pages. This brief guide is to help make it clear. So let’s get to it.

The Story

The story is second to the style; the content is less important than the form. This emphasis on the style over the content is something I learned from James Joyce, especially in his final and most perplexing novel Finnegans Wake. In the Wake, Joyce has created a masterpiece of aesthetic literature. Samuel Beckett had this to say about it: “Here form is content, content is form. You complain that this stuff is not written in English. It is not written at all. It is not to be read–or rather it is not only to be read. It is to be looked at and listened to. His writing is not about something; it is that something itself.”

The marriage between form and content, or style and content, is what I have attempted in this book as well. But that is not to say that there is no longer any story at all. There is a story, one that I think is quite interesting in itself. Though I have often done everything possible to obfuscate it, the story is still present (and in its basic element quite simple).

One of the chief difficulties in reading No. 1 is how the book is structured. There are several “intermissions” that pop up quite often in between the actual story. These intermissions serve an artistic purpose, and sometimes they contribute to the story as well (see the section on intermissions below). The chapters where you will find the story itself are from chapters one until seven, always in lower case (e.g. compare seven with Seven (VII), which is an intermission).

Yet, as if all these intermissions weren’t bad enough, to make matters worse the chronological order of the story is horribly out of place. We begin in the middle, continue with the beginning, and finally return to the end. But this is with reason. One of the motifs of the book is the relativity of space and time. Einstein shows up a few times here and there (though cryptically), but the basic idea of a warped time and space is brought up quite often. This out of order sequence is an element of this.

To help clarify the story, here is the order you will find in the book:

  1. four
  2. five
  3. one
  4. two
  5. three
  6. six.
  7. six..
  8. six…
  9. seven

Everything in between is an intermission which takes place outside of the story, though sometimes these have a dramatic impact on the story such as the opening intermission a brief history of MURPHY which provides helpful(?) background information. But now that you are aware of this discontinuity, the story becomes quite simple.

Mr. Murphy meets Mr. Dike at an unspoken location. They each order a whiskey after the usual pleasantries are exchanged. Then they order a steak (Dike) and a potato (Murphy). Mr. Murphy hums to himself (sentence for eighteen words), then the food arrives by Pat the waiter. Dike reaches first across the table for the food, greatly offending Murphy. Dike is not sure why Murphy is so angry so he asks. Murphy informs him (wrongly) that he ordered the steak and that Dike ordered the potato. Dike disagrees, and Murphy becomes furious. When Dike attempts to call over Pat to settle the dispute, Murphy becomes even more irrationally furious. Then, like nothing happened, Murphy and Dike sit and philosophize or sit in silence in their own minds. After some time Dike stands, having defeated Murphy, somehow, and so he takes one final swig of whiskey and throws the glass onto the ground. Murphy dies. Murphy passes through the void and enters the afterlife (the aftereverafter) where he spends the rest of his days working with plants (as a botanist of sorts).

Then there’s the big twist, the unveiling of what’s really been happening all along. In the mock-newspaper article towards the close of the book, BREAKING: New Mayor Elected to Tinnytown, it becomes clear that Murphy is alone. There is no Dike; there has never been a Dike. Dike is the invention of Mr. Murphy’s deranged mind. There is only a lonely, crippled, mentally imbalanced Mr. Murphy gradually slipping into insanity. He dies, in the end, of self-defeat, of having finally lost his mind and his body following soon after.

So all things considered, we are not interested in what actually happens. We are interested in what Mr. Murphy thinks has happened. The book is far more about what takes place in Mr. Murphy’s mind than anything else. It is about his insanity, his delusional world. This distrust is central to understanding the book. Welcome to the mind of Mr. Murphy, welcome to the spiral of madness, welcome to the grand delusion Murphy has spun for himself. If you want to understand why this book is the way it is, here’s the key. Mr. Murphy is absolutely bonkers; trust nothing he says.

The Title

From a marketing perspective, No. 1 is a horrible title. It’s neither catchy, nor memorable, nor does it roll off the tongue. Though I went with it for two simple reasons, which I want to explain here. Like most things in this book, there are often double meanings involved.

The apparent meaning doesn’t come into consideration, however. Yes, this is my first fiction book, so maybe we could say that’s another reason to call it No. 1, but in my mind that’s not at all why I called it that. So this point is irrelevant.

The first idea was to give homage to Jackson Pollock, the abstract expressionist painter. His piece No. 5 is among the list of most expensive pieces of artwork ever sold. So initially, this is one of the ideas behind the piece. I love Pollock’s work and find his art captivating.

Though there is also another element to this. While also a homage to Pollock, there’s also the idea behind naming a painting No. 5. Why would Pollock name his work this way? Why not name it something more classic, like “water lilies” or anything else? In abstract art, the idea is simple. Modern art understands the subjective element of art and beauty. We will always see how we want to see, we will always have a subjective experience with art. Classically, this subjective experience was boxed in by titles that told you what to think, or subjects that showed you what to think such as portraits or landscapes. Modern art isn’t interested in that. Modern art wants you to think, not to do your thinking for you. So why name a painting something so bland like a number? Because a number has (almost) no emotion to it, no inherent ideas behind it. It’s so abstract it isn’t really saying anything. Which is why it’s perfect. Because it isn’t telling you what to experience, what to see in the painting, how to feel, or anything like that. It’s just letting you experience the artwork, to subjectively see what you will see. In this sense, modern art invites the viewer into the art itself, to complete the art. It is not complete without the viewer bringing their emotions, their experiences, their imagination to it.

What do a bunch of lines dripped onto a painting mean? What does a blank canvas hanging in a gallery mean? What does a squiggly line mean? The answer: it means whatever you think it means. You complete the art.

The same idea is at play in No. 1. I hoped to create an experience, not a book. That’s why there is a lot of “nonsense” text throughout. Sometimes there’s meaning hidden in there, but a lot of time there isn’t. A lot of the time nonsense text is just my way of saying what Jackson Pollock was saying.

I don’t care if you like the book or if you hate every page, because even if you hate it I’ll still achieve my goal: you’ll feel something. Even if that’s negative, it’s still something. That’s the point. You complete the book. Yes, because this is a book of words there will inherently be meaning in them, and as the existence of this guide shows, there is a lot of meaning here. However, one of the central ideas is that you experience a book wholly unique to you. You are invited into something unfinished.

The second idea behind the title is much simpler and has to do with the story itself. The big twist is all right there. As I read it, No. 1 is not “number one” but literally “no one.” As in, there is no one, there is no Dike, there is only Murphy.

applause

Opening No. 1 to the first page must be a shock. On page one you’re greeted by a bunch of comecomecomecomecomecomecomes repeated over and over again at varying lengths. What’s this all about?

This first section highlights well two of the central motifs of the book: music and the theater.

Musically, applause is in words an attempt to notate Steve Reich’s early piece of music Clapping Music. Listen to this piece and you’ll recognize what I have attempted to do. I wanted to try and translate Reich’s piece into words that, when read aloud, make a similar rhythmic cadence as Clapping Music does. The sequence of “comes” simulates this piece, and sets the stage for what will be a very musical book.

And speaking of stages, this is our second motif on display. applause, the title, gives it away. With the imitation of a song of clapping music and the title linking that with applause from a crowd sets the tone, placing you in the theater as the curtain is drawn back and the show begins. It’s my way of welcoming you to this odd drama. All the intermissions and performance pieces are intended to make the book feel like you’re watching a play on a stage. The first lines of this introduction together read “very wel-come.” Sit back and enjoy as the story of Mr. Murphy unfolds.

Chess

Inside Murphy’s head there is an epic battle between Dike and himself, a chess match of life and death. There are chess notations all throughout the book to show this. In some ways, chess guides the plot more than anything else.

In sequential order, the chess game played by Dike and Murphy (in Murphy’s imagination) is as follows.

  1. E4 E5
  2. NF3 D6
  3. D4 BG4
  4. DxE5 BxF3
  5. QxF3 DxE5
  6. BC4 NF6
  7. QB3 QE7
  8. NC3 C6
  9. BG5 B5
  10. NxB5! CxB5
  11. BxB5+ NBD7
  12. O-O-O RD8
  13. RxD7 RxD7
  14. RD1 QE6
  15. BxD7 NxD7
  16. QB8+! NxQB8
  17. RD8#

The book begins with turn nine, in chapter four, then returns to move one in one, and finally concludes back to thirteen in six.

Dike plays the white pieces, and therefore goes first. Murphy plays black and follows. The total moves of the game are thirty-three, or Murphy’s age.

Now, students of chess will recognize that this game is not my own invention. This is perhaps one of the most famous chess matches ever played between Paul Morphy and Duke Karl. It’s often been called the most beautiful chess game ever played, particularly because of Morphy’s spectacular queen sacrifice. The game was played in 1858 (a date I allude to in the book). Study this chess game and you’ll notice some similarities between the plot and the game. For instance, when Dike smashes his glass on the ground to finally defeat Murphy, this is notated by that famous queen sacrifice. Other chess terms and commentary on the game show up in some chapters, as Murphy in his own mind ponders what to do next. The chess game, for Murphy, is the primary event taking place.

There are two points to be made here. First, that in the original game Paul Morphy wins. In my version, I have reversed the roles. Murphy plays Duke Karl’s game and Dike plays Paul Morphy’s. Thus Murphy is defeated by Dike. And that’s also the second point. The names of our characters come from this game. Though Murphy also comes from Samuel Beckett’s novel of the same name. (As in that book, Murphy dies after suffering defeat, so it is also with my Murphy.)

For me this was a fun way to show the internal conflict which takes place in Mr. Murphy’s mind. But also, I just happen to enjoy chess and find it fascinating.

sentence for eighteen words

This is by far one of the longest and strangest of our intermissions. It follows after chapter four, and comes before chapter five. The primary influence here is music, especially Steve Reich’s masterpiece Music for Eighteen Musicians. It is without a doubt one of my favorite pieces of music ever written, after perhaps Octet. If you’re unfamiliar with Music for Eighteen Musicians, you’re in for an incredible experience.

My sentence for eighteen words takes a sentence and, by the influence of sound poetry, creates a poetic collection of syllables and sounds to mimic Reich’s work. Though no attempt was made directly mimic this piece, because that would be far to nuanced and perhaps even impossible. Instead, like the performance notes indicate, the piece works more along the lines of phasing, another important musical idea from Reich. The general framework is provided by Music for Eighteen Musicians, the style mimics phasing, and the sentence is broken up into sound poetry.

The performance notes are meant to be comical and a bit ridiculous, but this doesn’t exclude the possibility of ever performing the piece. I’d be very interested to hear the piece performed, and wrote it with the possibility in mind.

The sentence itself is, “Telephone bang, gravy oozed, he spoke of the war, while the Misses cried alone, while listeners slept bored.” It paints a miniature story within Murphy’s story. The story is of a dinner party, likely a Thanksgiving feast, where a man reminisces about the war, his wife cries, and their guests sleep bored. I envisioned the end of the world. The telephone rings to warn of the approaching bombs, “telephone bang.” The response of the room is telling. The man remembers back to the war, perhaps the war that started the end of the world. His wife cries, as we all might if the world was ending. Though the most striking response of all is the wholly-apathetic listeners sleeping. They sleep from boredom, apathetic to life, to violence, to war, to existence itself. Theirs is the horrific tragedy of modern times. Apathy will end the world.

When in Doubt: Laugh

The whole book is one big joke; it’s crucial to laugh. Taking No. 1 too seriously will ruin it. It’s a joke. On every page there’s a bunch of silly puns and nonsense. Take everything with a sense of humor and you’ll enjoy it far more. Whenever I read it, I laugh to myself (perhaps even more than I should). I’m always amused by what Nora Joyce said of her husband James whenever he would write his books, “I go to bed and then that man sits in the next room and continues laughing about his own writing. And then I knock at the door, and I say, now Jim, stop writing or stop laughing.”

Some More Brief Advise

I recommend you read the paperback edition, as it is how I wrote it to be read. The paperback edition is beautiful, I intentionally designed the text and the pages to feel like an art gallery. It’s much better read with a physical book in hand.

To get all the book has to offer, read it aloud. This is the only benefit of the eBook edition, as most eReaders have some form of text-to-speech function. You’ll get more out of it this way. Though reading it to yourself is perhaps better than a computer reading it to you, because as I’ve tested several I found that none read exactly as I hoped they would. So again a paperback is better, though an eBook is a decent alternative.

Language as Play

I’m convinced that language is inherently playful. As children we interacted with words orally, and as a result we were more prone to play with language as sound. We made up nonsensical rhymes and often thought up puns or little nicknames for one another. As we grew up and became adults we learned the proper ways of speech and writing. Language became structured and rigid, as merely a means to an end. We rarely think of language as playful or even musical, as we once did as children. We maintain strictly utility-based relationships with language as adults. We inherently feel that words have to mean something.

But what if language was an end in itself? Something inherently fun, without having to mean a single thing? Immanuel Kant said, “There are two things that don’t have to mean anything to give us deep pleasure: one is music and the other is laughter.” Is it feasible to add language and words to this list? Do words have to mean anything for us to enjoy them? Is it possible to return to a play-based relationship with language over a utility-based one?

In one sense, words will never be without meaning. Even if I put a nonsense word in front of you, something like “cvutlromo”, you’d still see something to interpret, some meaning even if it is a faint one. You’ll read your history and your person-hood into the word.

But don’t we already do this with any word we see? If I say something simple like “bread”, no matter what the dictionary says is correct about the word you will imagine a particular kind of bread, or perhaps a memory with bread like when your mother made french toast for you everyday before school. It’s impossible to step out of yourself and achieve true objectivity. We will always perceive the world subjectively.

Language doesn’t inherently have to mean anything, but it inevitably does. Words have fluid meanings, dictionaries are always changing or adding new words; words are not as concrete as we imagine them to be.

When we realize this, perhaps we become free to play with language once again. If the meaning of words are subjective and fluid, could we be free from demanding they always must mean something to justify their existence? Or can a word just be a word on a page? And if so, then perhaps we might experience a renewed joy in language, a joy in the simple beauty of words, and perhaps even have a bit of fun with language again.

Words don’t have to mean a thing to be enjoyable, musical, or possibly even beautiful. Though they will always include our subjective experience and the meaning we give them, and in this sense words will never be without meaning. But what I hope you see here is that words don’t have to inherently mean anything to be interesting, compelling, or enjoyable.

With this book I sought to return to a playful use of language, an oral use, a musical use. Some portions of text have inbuilt meaning and others do not, but both can be deeply enjoyable.

A Few Editorial Reviews for No. 1 (…I assume)

“Morrison has written a totally rubbish book of no purpose whatsoever. You’re better off reading a phone book than this nonsense. Pretentious, childish, and just stupid. Skip it!”

– Shawn McDillion, The New Dorker

“I opened this book and the first thing I read was “ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho”. What is this, Macy’s in December? So I say “no no no no no no no no” to this ridiculous book! It’s even right there in the title.”

– Sam Moran, BBBC World Stews

“…Well, no, I didn’t ‘read’ the book, but I hated it.”

– Sock Muppet-Smith, The New York Fines

“Loved it, what a great story. That Christian Grey character is smart, rich, compelling, and best of all: hot. Definitely way better than anything else out right now. Look out Shakespeare!”

– Stacy Macaroni, The Book… Reviewer?

Literary Influences and Allusions

Three writers hold a forcible influence over this book, and all three are either quoted directly or I parody their work in one way or another. These are William Shakespeare, James Joyce, and Samuel Beckett.

From Shakespeare you’ll find a particular interest in Macbeth, my favorite of his plays. From James Joyce you’ll find both Ulysses and Finnegans Wage, though small pieces of his other work as well. From Samuel Beckett you’ll find many different books and plays including the novel trilogy Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable, his famous play Waiting for Godot, and his other novels Watt, and Murphy.

Shakespeare is included in appreciation and an odd way imitation (see intermissions). The dark spiral of Macbeth along side many direct quotes from the play have a significant place in the book. Notably the “to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow” monologue.

Joyce takes an aesthetic role, as I’ve already mentioned before, but I also take many quotes from Ulysses and Finnegans Wake and allude to them in the book.

Every time I repeat myself or obfuscate some simple task like moving a fork on the table (and making a whole page out of the exact position), you have Beckett to thank. In Watt especially this technique was used to a hilarious and maddening end.

Beyond these three, I also owe a great debt to John Cage. His work only appears once at the very end, but his spirit of avant garde is always present.

I parody many other authors, though far less than these three. They are the primary influences and the the epitome of what I hoped to accomplish.

Intermissions

The following intermissions take place in between the story chapters, and are cryptic but artistic and therefore essential parts of the book.

 Seven (VII)

Seven was the first intermission I wrote. I was walking to the train one day when the first sentence came into my head, “That that was that which that that’s that was…” I believe I was reading Beckett at the time, as this is quite obviously a Beckett-inspired text. From this first line I took the idea and morphed it into seven variations which build on the former and progressively become looser, more complex, and stranger.

The first section is a concentration on the constant “t” either at the beginning or the end of the word. Each section which follows includes some of the former themes but adds its own flavor. In this way each section is like a painting in progress; what begins with a single color soon becomes technicolor as each theme evolves with the others. I did intend this to be listened to, and so reading it to yourself is essential.

The purpose of this has little to do with the story, initially, but as I soon realized it relates to it quite well. Just as Murphy progressively moves from mild delusion into complete self-deception, so our text begins simply and progresses into complexity. There are some hidden allusions in there, some that echo in other places, but what’s the fun in me telling you all of them?

Above all else, Seven (VII) serves no real purpose. Heck, the same could be said of the entire book! But that’s the point. It’s fun.

K.

K. is a short mesostic poem borrowing from three sources.

The original idea came from John Cage’s book Empty Words. Here Cage writes his own mesostics from the text of Finnegans Wake, spelling out James Joyce. In his book Cage establishes a set of rules he follows for these poems, I have not followed these exactly. But the original idea for a mesostic poem came from this.

The vertical word spelled in the middle of these sentences comes from a composition by Philip Glass: Koyaanisqatsi. The word is primarily from this composition (which was written for a movie, but stands in its own right as a fantastic piece). The word means “life out of balance.” This is fitting for the life of Murphy.

Finally, the text that makes up the mesostic itself is from Samuel Beckett’s trilogy of novels: Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable. These were sentences or parts of sentences from Beckett’s masterpiece that I had enjoyed the most while reading it.

3.one—and so on and

The plays of Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter are the influence at work here, with a leaning towards Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. This was my introduction to Beckett’s work, and it spiked my curiosity so deeply I have since read nearly everything Beckett has written.

In this mini-play, which begins without any explanation, I have mimicked Godot quite clearly. Several direct quotes are present. Plus the existence of the Samuel character clearly is Beckett himself, and for this reason in the play whenever Samuel speaks it is a direct quote from Beckett’s work.

I went back and forth on whether to include this section, but left it in because I found it different enough to intrigue readers. It is meant to be a comedy, the oddity of these men screaming at each other and forgetting everything within seconds is meant to be absurd enough to laugh at. It’s best if one imagines it on the stage with real performers making awkward movements oblivious to the nonsense of it all.

Shake Spar D’Aiur (Pfarts I & II)

What have I done to poor old Shakespeare.

Oh my, this is a very strange homage to the Bard, all wrapped up in a fart joke; very strange indeed. Is this what our delusional, self-professed genius, Murphy, imagines his farts sound like? That he’s such a genius, even his buttocks extorts the masterpieces of Shakespeare?

Perhaps.

(No Shakespeares were harmed in the making of this book.)

VOID

Void is a rather numbing section, as the same twenty-seven words repeat themselves over and over again on the page in random order. But this was intentional. VOID represents, as the title suggests, Murphy’s journey through the void, through the in between place, through whatever happens when we die.

I imagined this to read like Beckett’s Lessness. In an earlier draft I created a parody of Lessness, but excluded it in the final edition.

CALENDCWIDE AEGLOTA BEORN

This is a pseudo Old English text. Pseudo because it was created through a translator and then tweaked in my own editing. There was an original text which I translated into this pseudo Old English, but it has since been lost. Though even if I had it it would defeat the purpose. Which is that there is none, I just thought the text looked interesting. (See Language as Play above.)

HALLE LUVEA, HALLE LEIVEA

With this No. 1 ends. I imagined a final flourish in our drama, the singing conclusion, and most importantly: the lullaby into sleep. Just as Joyce purposefully ended both Ulysses and Finnegans Wake with what he believed to be the weakest words in the English language (“yes” and “the”), to induce the feeling of sleep, so I sought to end our story in restful sleep.

The elements here are similar to that of sentence for eighteen words. The phasing here, however, takes place more mechanically as it is built into the text itself and not a result of the performance. And, with eighteen words, I did intend this to be performed and would be very interested to hear two readers reading in strict unison this text.

Two of the speeches make use of text from John Cage (numbers three and four).

It’s a fitting way to end the book. Just as Murphy seems to have found peace, so we fall into sleep.

Heaven or Hell?

Our final question is on the final resting place of Murphy. I have purposefully left this ambiguous, and so the question remains open. But I want to draw attention to it here.

Does Murphy end up in heaven or hell?

There is evidence for both. The first sentence is a parody of the famous first sentence of Dante’s inferno. Later in that paragraph again the Inferno is brought to memory with a parody of the famous inscription over the gates of hell: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Further evidence is given by allusions to Johnathan Edwards’ (in)famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, and Murphy’s thoughts on the fires not being quite as hot as he imagined. So initially the answer seems simple. Murphy is in hell. But is this an illusion of Murphy’s mind, yet again a part of his fantasy world?

Then the last paragraph seems to say the exact opposite: Murphy is forgiven; Murphy is included. The language changes to an angelic praise to the triumphant salvation of God. There are several other theological ideas present which seem to hint towards Murphy’s being in heaven. But is this a part of Murphy’s delusion?

Which answer is correct I leave up to you. The way I see it there are four ways to answer. The first two are the simple yes or no to heaven or hell. The final two are more complex, that Murphy is in hell but imagines himself in heaven, or vise versa. All answers have support, if in ambiguous context. Ultimately it’s left unanswered for my readers to answer. What does Murphy deserve in the end?

Watt’s Missing?

This guide is far from exhaustive in examining every single motif or theme or allusion or clue or pun in this book. But what would be the fun in that? The fun is in the search. There remain many enigmatic puzzles to be solved in No. 1, and I never intended to answer all of them. I have attempted here an introduction of sorts to the important themes. Most of all I hope to assist readers in making sense of a somewhat nonsense book. Not to answer every question, but to help guide my reader to understand, if only a little better, what I have wanted to say with this book.

No. 1 is far from a pointless, nihilistic text void of meaning. It is full of life, of music, of beauty, of poetry, of intrigue, and of comedy. It is a deep affirmation of humanity and of life itself. I have written it with care, passion, and purpose.

I hope you will join me down the rabbit hole and enter the strange world of Mr. Murphy. Love it or hate it, it makes no difference to me. I didn’t write it for you, at the end of the day. I like it, and that’s the only person I ever hoped to please. It may be selfish of me to say, but so what. Give the book a try or don’t. This guide, if anything, clues you in on what you’re getting yourself into.

Some Final Existential Musings

A question that haunts me still, which haunted me as I wrote No. 1, is the nagging thought: “Am I Mr. Murphy?” Am I utterly delusional, living in a world of my own imagining? Where I am the self-assumed hero, the “superior opponent”, who ultimately is his own downfall? Am I a fake? A pretender, just counting down the days until I’m found out? Am I a joke?

Am I me? (As Murphy says in chapter three.)

To-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

To the last syllable of recorded time;

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

(Macbeth act 5, scene 5; 19-28)

A Preview of No. 1

The following is a chapter from No. 1, presented here as a preview of the entire book, and a taste of what’s in store if you decide to read it. This is chapter one.


one

 Mr. Murphy sat nowhere. Sit?, he certainly couldn’t sit. He was without the capacity, or the will, or the interest, or the acedemic requirements, or the bum, or the chair, or the eyes, or the existence to. Sit. He sat. He was sitting. In existence, seeing with eyes, on a chair, with a bum, and with all acedemic requirements, and an interest, and a will, and a capacity to. Sat. Mr. Murphy sat. This was certain. Our hero. Our subject of misery. Our Murphy, this Murphy chosen for our perrpuses, sits, doesn’t sit, exists, doesn’t exist, either or, or either, or or or—nothing.

—It’s about time. Yes. It is about time. I Mr. Murphy, your superior opponent have been waiting much to ma—ma—miny minutes and oh how I hate to wait much to ma—ma—miny minutes But toothfully it’s no problem at all, I rather enhoyed the tait, filthy liar. The hay is farmer peasant. Isn’t it? It is not in the slightest But rum, please have a wheat him who soon shall be defeated. Did you findit alright, this place?

—Oh yes, I swear. I did. I did. And, and, sir, and and and ma—my apologies, ma—ma—Mr. Murphy. I I I swear. I. Mistaaa merffffi, he says. imbullsill.

—It’s alright, you of curse ha do not haha have my forgiveness. Don’t sweat it. Sweattt it.

Well well he sits there he siitss there there here sets thee like a, dike nothing no one he don’t do does doesn’t. Certainly sleeps on his face facing furward. Bends the nuck it dies, hunched a like a sittingbach, indeedaly a doe a do it does it doesn’t.

He, Mr. Dike, picks up a particular paper menu from the tible (Yes, sincerely I hope, yes, or else from where? From where? No where?! The worst where of all!). Why, he, Mr. Dike, picked this particular menu, from somewhere, (indeed!) where, he, Mr. Dike, picked was entirely unknowable to ma—Mr. Murphy, his superior opponent. But the menu he picked particularly in time and space from the tible (I hope) was the only pickable menu in time to pick in space. So picked he, Mr. Dike, did. For why? What reason? Through what means or by what end err for what cause oar with what purposes? Only one (or perhips more?) reason(s): To see what’s inside said menu and to read with Dike’s lack of eyes what might be offered for lunch or not offered for lunch or neither offered nor unoffered (by far the more difficult of the three) at this said unsaid location at which Mr. Murphy and he, Mr. Dike, have met in time upon time about time in space not out of space or outer space but space presently, currently real time and, now, space here and now now. And.

And begins the match of ma—ma—Mr. Murphy and Dike, Mr. Dike (the duchess) and Mr. Murphy, the match struck begun begun un the match strike a beginning, now, in space, and a little bit in time, about time, on time, curling through space, not otter space, but this space. Begin. Dike white. One. E4. Standard opening. The question now fur murph: To Sicilian or not to Sicilian, is the, the the quadi quibids quibi quondo question. I, your superior player, opponent, in tact, do indeedaly a doe a do aknoweth better. No, non, null, never. nonono. Dueling pawns play poor perhips put permitting—not. Gone-gonegone. E5. A smart choice I’d say, a calculable choice, a computed choice, I’d say, my, Mr. Murphy’s, choice (in space but not time in time but not space or something other or nothing at all uddered.)

Moving, Mr. Murphy made movements, taking Mr. Dikes Fark. The Firk next to the knafe he maved made muves mooving moocow, tototo words tooroo th approximated unknown location of east/west, not south/north or northwest / southeast or southwest / northeast or eastsouth / westsouth or westsouth / eastnorth or easteast / eastwest or westeast / westwest or westeasteast / eastwestwest or northnorth / westeast or westwestsoutheast / eastnorthwesteast or southwestnortheastnorthsoutheast / eastwestnorthsoutheastnorthwesteast or northsoutheastwestnorth / eastsouthwesteastnorth or southeastnortheastwesteastnortheast / northnortheastnorthsoutheastwestnorth or eastsouthnortheast / eastnorthnortheast or northwesteastnorth / westwestnortheast or northsouthsouthnortheast / northeastsoutheastnorth or westnortheastnorth / southsouthsouthsouth or eastnorthsoutheastnorthwestnortheastsouth / northsoutheastwestnortheastnorthsouthnorth or eastwestnortheast / northsoutheastnorth or westnortheastnorth / southsouthwestwest or any other position possible known or unknown or hypothesized or criticized in space upon time without time in this space at a pace of quarter ta tree. E5. Your game, Dike.

—So, Mr. Murphy, mister mercy-less, how, and what, and why, and for whom, and when, and where exactly, precisely, are you? Have you? Seen, been, felt, or existed as of—currently: at the present moment in time—late?

A way a wawaway with words we have, night night. Just right. NF3. Attacking act-tack ena. Defense simple. What was it again. Again. What? Phili whomi whati? Ah a— D6 then. Simple. Occam’s shaving scam and all that cutting nunsins.

—Yes. Fine. Thank. You. You. And you? Too-da-lou-to-da-rum-day-hey-ay? Quiet imbullsill. Short. Sweets. Nis of—Steews. Eats of in.

—Verily well meself, Sire. But I of late I we find my-me-self in danger of positional gaming risking, gimbiting. Hamlite? I wasn’t sire so sirtainly hut to call hit hit, but offtoon rye-sky, what say you to to to twat? D4.

Magnum um opus opium. Philidor defence. Developing. Next progressive step. Pin the pawn, no, of coorse, the the Knight. The Knight is yung. Developeded. Weaker Bishop anyway anytowl. BG4.

—Is it is that is it is that is that is it or isn’t it or is it isn’t it or is it is is is isn’t it? Rice? (Is it, perhips?) to roow. Too tea tie toe.

Dike smirks, smilesmirked, superciliousper-silly-ious-us. (Wept, aren’t men?) As if to say by not saying anynothing at all to do or say or think or feel nill the nilling, null—that’s confident hints in at livels of Kierkegaard. Does he think it’s a weak move already? Fisher, I hardly know her! Fish who any who? Who says what? That it was poor, why O why indeed-a-ly fie. Well respond already Dike, time ticks ticks ticken may bey.

—Should order we? Hungry, are you?, Murphy, ma—ma—Mr. DxE5 forcing hand. Only a single intellehent response:

—Yes, but… maybe not? Maybe weight? Why not grab drinks first? grabbing cup, emptying, Murphy’s up sire. Yes. This is it is it is whits tillman. Take now. BxF3. Exhange. Difusss. Must must.

—Okay. Respond….fool.

Dike directs his attention to the waiter who waits named Pat, this bald Pat, the paty Pat, patted his bald patable pead.

—Pat, perhaps perchance can we maywe order pat-lease? What is this? Rejected. Straight for word EE nuff, puff puff. Mr. D’s Queen’s is’ moving making movement’s’s. QxF3. Nonexischanging.

Pat putters straight towards them, stalky stately, plump muck bull (again?) toroo their tibble. Pat stands be be before Mr. Murphy and Mr. Dike. And. And, asks nothing. Stands. And. And asks nothing. And. Stands. And. Asks nothing. Again. Then. Pat pulls out a pin from his right pocket in the front trouser of his pants pocket, the right one, and places pen in left hand then right hand then left hand again then right hand again and again then no hand then left pocket again of front trousers then places pen places pat places. Patting left pocket, making sure pen remains placed as Pat patted pen in left pocket. Pat removes pen from left pocket into right hand then no hand then and places pen on table somwhere near or dearest to ongoing match, as if match wasn’t match. Matches. Pat. Pen. Places. Again. Waits. Asks nothing. Asks nothing, to no one. And.

—Wait, shall I wait sire, Shall I—err are ou dinner-ring-ling-ing a lone? Err—or thou a loading fur smthng, err—or eat anne a loner?

—Alone?

Are you mad?

About the Author

Stephen Morrison is the author. Stephen Morrison writes books. Stephen Morrison wrote this book. Stephen Morrison also wrote a book called No. 1. Stephen Morrison might write other fiction books. Stephen Morrison would like to point out that he also might not. That’s all.