The 1951 Washington Mallorn Summit


In the holiday spirit, we are excited to be able to share with the Krinstian community a unique historical document: a recently rediscovered letter from noted Krinstian Walter Smart to the eminent Jean-Paul Hogman discussing Krinst’s legendary 1951 Washington Summit with Icelandic Nihilist poet Samwise Mallorn. Tantalizing mention is made in the letter of two possible artistic collaborations by these supermen of the avant-garde: an “enormous sock” of indubitable moral, political and aesthetic significance, unfortunately no longer in existence as such, and and an electroacoustic composition, a copy of which was apparently originally enclosed with the letter. The tape unfortunately has not been found, but hope remains that it may still exist in the National Krinst Archives in Guyana.—Fafnir Finkelmeyer

Sunday, January 29th 1984
6:27 P.M.
New Haven

Dear Jean-Paul:

It has long been known that Samwise Mallorn and Alvin Krinst met in October, 1951, at a laundromat near St. Catherine’s Asylum in Washington, D.C. What precisely they discussed is uncertain, due to reticence in certain influential quarters, which should surprise no one who has digested Mallorn’s prophetic treatise, “Small Change and the Contagion of Influenza.” However, reports of their conversation have been publicized, and apparently Buckminster Fuller and T.S. Eliot, at their famous meeting, chose to discuss how Allen Ginsberg and Ezra Pound, when they met, gossiped about what has come to be called the Dirty Sock Conclave of ’51. The only trustworthy witnesses to the Conclave were Hugh Kenner and Simon Lacerous, but both insist on holding their tongues on this subject, which though uncomfortable is not impossible. The only published accounts of the event are thus open to question. Of the four of them, two can be instantly discounted, as one of them claims that Mallorn and Krinst were women, which is only partially true, and the other pretends that their conversation was largely in an obscure dialect of Yoruba which in fact has been extinct since 1611. The remaining two accounts, though both plausible, contradict each other utterly. The first to be published, “Mallorn, Krinst, and the Great Sock Story” by a hobo named Sain the Fishman (Quasi-American Literary Quarterly, Vol. XXI No. 10), states that Mallorn and Krinst shared a dryer together and planned one day to co-launder “an enormous sock” to further the revolutions in art and politics to which they had devoted their lives. If anything ever became of this collaboration, it has been lost, or perhaps darned beyond recognition.

It is the other account which interests us here. I humbly agreed, as a qualified expert, to aid President Giamatti of Yale University in his effort to alphabetize the Mallorn Collection recently left to the university by the Nabisco Trust. As it turned out, the collection, though it does contain wondrous treasures, none the less consists largely of old heads of cabbage and Styrofoam cups, the solace of Mallorn’s last years. As I sorted through the rubbish, affixing labels in my efforts to catalogue the produce, I came across a battered Danish cookie tin, inside of which was a hitherto ignored article by a certain Ludmilla Rosen-Kinkleberg, excerpted from an unknown periodical. Undoubtedly Rosen-Kinkleberg had sent or, more likely, smuggled the article to Mallorn. Mallorn himself inscribed on the reprint, “June 18/67. My meeting with Krinst???” It seems that he could no longer remember exactly what transpired at the legendary Conclave. But one thing is certain: if he knew Rosen-Kinkleberg’s account to be wrong, he kept quiet about it.

Rosen-Kinkleberg, who claims to have been ironing her collection of underapparel in the very room where the two Titans met, describes the Conclave as follows. Mallorn, dressed in a conservative grey nightgown, mirrored sunglasses, and false ears, stormed into the laundromat, accompanied by the two chimpanzees who followed him everywhere for protection. [Editor’s note: the text here is unclear whether Mallorn was protecting the chimpanzees, or vice versa.] He removed his socks, which, as they were bulletproof, were extremely heavy and could not be bleached without written permission, and dropped them into a washer, making a “kerplunk” sound as they hit bottom. This attracted the attention of the proprietor, who insisted it was his right to search any and all footwear on grounds of suspicion. Mallorn ordered his primates to squash the capitalist running dog, but due to a natural misunderstanding, they fled the scene and began to chase a dachshund down the street. A verbal battle ensued, and, according to Rosen-Kinkleberg, Alvin Krinst emerged from a corner where he had been eating the current Washington Post to settle the dispute. Mallorn guessed at once the identity of the stranger, as Krinst was the one person in the world Mallorn was certain he had never met before. Krinst, removing his socks also, struck the proprietor across the cheeks with them while giggling and whistling Liszt’s Totentanz simultaneously. When all three ran out of absurdities, the argument ended, and the proprietor, an out-patient at St. Catherine’s, went into the backyard and exposed himself to a bag of peat moss. Mallorn and Krinst hugged and dislodged each other’s dentures, which they threw into their wash along with their socks.

Rosen-Kinkleberg claims, not very convincingly, that their conversation in the laundromat was all but incomprehensible due to their unburdened gums, but that nonetheless they managed to discuss Zen Buddhism, toothpaste, Van Gogh, Heidegger, Rimbaud, castration envy, and John Cage, and debated the thesis that “length doesn’t matter.” What is more, R-K says, they concocted a scheme for writing together a poetico-musical electronic fantasy called “A Sock Heard ’Round the World,” which would concern the Battle of Concord, a short Chinaman of variable height, and the history of music in alphabetical order. Rosen-Kinkleberg’s description of their parting exceeds all her other claims in improbability; that they would make an appointment to meet again, shake hands, and go their separate ways without violence, vituperation, extravagant accusations, or collapse into a mystical poetic trance seems highly unlikely to anyone at all familiar with the two.

Rosen-Kinkleberg’s account reeks of fabrication, but that does not explain why a tape recording has been found in the Mallorn Collection of a work matching her description of their collaboration. Could she have somehow planted it among Mallorn’s underwear as he left the launderette? Probably not, as Mallorn could not afford to wear underwear, and perhaps even prefered not to, as the fact that studs are sewn on the inside of his trousers suggests. Anyway, it does not seem to be entirely composed by the Icelandic expatriate, as his previous music, like his Tea-Kettle Stück of 1939, usually consisted of a single sound prolonged for some indefinite period. However, one Yale scholar, who many years ago heard Mallorn shout “Taxi,” believes he recognizes Mallorn’s voice on the recording.

The work seems more the work of Alvin Krinst than of Mallorn. Is it his piano playing that can be heard toward the end of the second reel? If so, his trick of playing two pianos simultaneously, recollected by Fafnir Finkelmeyer in his Alternate Years, has finally been captured on tape.

I suppose the rainy season is upon you now. I marvel how cavalier you are about the scorpions and other vermin! I would end “warmly,” but I need the warmth more than you do—