Special Guest, Enoch Soames

By: Peggy Nelson
December 15, 2009

Charlie Rose: Tonight on the show we have a very special guest, Enoch Soames, long thought to be a fictional character. In Max Beerbohm’s 1919 short story, Enoch Soames, a Memory of the Eighteen-Nineties, Beerbohm claimed that Soames was real, yet predicted he would be remembered only as a fictional personage, due in part to that very short story! However, thanks to advances in technology, we are able to Skype with Enoch right from the studio.


[Enoch Soames by William Rothenstein, 1895]

CR: So, Enoch, welcome to the show.

Enoch Soames: Thanks Charlie, delighted to be here!

CR: Enoch, you have a Twitter feed, and a blog. Let me just jump right in and ask the question at the top of everyone’s mind, how were you able to return? Did you make another Deal with the Devil?

ES: No, I exploited a legal loophole. Basically there was nothing in the contract about virtual reality. There is now of course, He’s gone over everything with counsel and made sure to close that gap. But we were grandfathered in, all of us from the Faustian Era. No Tiger Woods-style rewriting of the pre-nup, in Hell! I can’t walk around, like you; well except for that one time at the British Museum in 1997. That was what the original Deal was about, of course. But, I can hang around cyberspace all I want. It’s really similar to down south, except a little colder. Luckily I still have my cape. Look: not only waterproof, Polartec!

[Shows features of cape]

CR: You’ve been in cyberspace? This whole time?

ES: No, I only became interested once the web really took off. I’ve been hanging around and surfing and watching videos; you know, the usual, just from the other side of the screen. But then once Web 2.0 arrived I realized I didn’t just have to be a voyeur, I could be a writer again! It was the perfect opportunity to re-tell my story.

CR: We know the Max Beerbohm version of course; now obviously we can see that that was biography, and not fiction as was thought for over a hundred years . . .

ES: Beerbohm! That wannabe! That paparazzo! That, that – insect! Every time I turn around, there he is again! No, not down there, in here. [Points] When I Google myself, which of course I do on a regular basis, everywhere I look his name is tethered to mine. I remember in London, it took me months to gain admittance to the back room at the Café Royal (where all they did, I can assure you, was gossip and play dominos. Dominos – please! ) – anyway, months, and once I got in, there he was already, entrenched like a tick. Wouldn’t leave me in peace! Always with the naive questions, the buttering-up – well he did actually buy my books, yes. I believed he was sincere, at first. But he turned out to be worse than all the others . . .

CR: But without Beerbohm’s short story, Enoch Soames, we wouldn’t know you at all, would we? Your own books went out of print long ago and there are no –

[Getting upset]

ES: I am having them reprinted!! Through the web I have access to all your technology! I’m redoing Negations as a “multiple,” a limited-edition artist’s book. Letterpress, hardcover, the works. An objet, if you will. It will all be linked from my website. With Paypal!

CR: What is Negations about?

ES: Nothing.

CR: Nothing as something?

ES: No, nothing as nothing!!

CR: And Fungoids?

ES: Fungoids is going to reinvent poetry. It goes back to the essential seed material of transmission. It will be very tangible, a physical code. Something that will really take root and grow.

CR: I can’t quite imagine –

ES: It will all be on the website! When it is ready!!!

CR: And the third book – ?

[Sits back, speaks through closed eyes]

ES: I am not at liberty to discuss the third book, but I can tell you that I’m trying something completely new with it. Since Beerbohm didn’t ruin it with his middlebrow manner, his simplistic summaries, his insectoid apprehension, I can take it in a totally new direction.

CR: Well, it sounds very promising! I’m sure we would all love to see what you –

ES: I ALSO want to point out, to you and everyone out there, that a significant body of serious literature has sprung up in analytic philosophy, about me, about the meaning of my existence. Not about my art or the morality of my Faustian Bargain, more’s the pity. But about my status as a real fictional character!

CR: Well Beerbohm, the author, did claim you were real –

ES: This is not about that author claiming anything! I am my own author! I’m sure you claim that you are real?

CR: Well absolutely, but –

ES: Absolutely the same with me. I am real and you are real. Saul Kripke is real. We’re all real together, communal claimants upon reality. Whatever that is.

CR: Let me ask you a final question. Does it feel very different, living in cyberspace?

ES: No, it doesn’t feel that much different than when I was “outside.” I always felt a bit insubstantial, not quite grounded, you know? That, combined with people just not seeming to notice me, or listen to me . . . ! I would say it’s more or less the same in here but actually it’s a little better, now. People do read me, I measure it with Google Analytics! Very satisfying. I’m developing quite the hobby in statistics. To be honest, I do miss my favorite drink, absinthe; I hear you’ve made it legal again? But you can’t have everything.

CR: Enoch, thank you for joining us tonight, it’s been quite enlightening.

ES: Thank you Charlie.

CR: Enoch Soames can be followed on Twitter at @enoch_soames, or at his website, Enoch Soames, personage. And be sure to look for Negations and Fungoids, coming out soon!

[Also, in “The Devil Went Down to the British Library” on Levi Asher’s Litkicks blog I discuss Enoch and the reality of escaped fictional characters. – PN]


Artists in residence archive.


Art, Kudos, Spectacles

What do you think?

  1. Great fun—I’m one of Enoch’s biggest fans. But I’m surprised: Charlie Rose’s questions are usually much, much longer!

Comments are closed.