the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Simon & Garfunkel, meet Melville and Beck

By popular demand (well, actually it was Sophia), I’ve moved this comment from my Jane Austen/Pussycat Dolls post over here so it can have its own home.  Why?  I’m not really sure. 

Here was Mernitman’s request –

“Risking the lit-esoterica zone, I’ll put my bid in to see the Melville/Beck mash-up, in which Bartleby the Scrivener sings, “I would prefer not to / I’M A LOSER, BABY!”…”

So, here it goes, just for you:



Imagine my surprise, nay, my consternation, when, without moving from his privacy, Bartleby, in a singularly mild, firm voice, replied, “I would prefer not to.”

In the time of chimpanzees, I was a monkey
Butane in my veins and I’m out to cut the junkie
With the plastic eyeballs, spray-paint the vegetables
Dog food stalls with the beefcake pantyhose

I sat awhile in perfect silence, rallying my stunned faculties. Immediately it occurred to me that my ears had deceived me, or Bartleby had entirely misunderstood my meaning. I repeated my request in the clearest tone I could assume; but in quite as clear a one came the previous reply, “I would prefer not to.”

Kill the headlights and put it in neutral
Stock car flaming with a loser in the cruise control
Baby’s in Reno with the vitamin-D
Got a couple of couches, sleep on the loveseat
Someone keeps sayin’ I’m insane to complain about

“Prefer not to,” echoed I, rising in high excitement, and crossing the room with a stride. “What do you mean? Are you moon-struck? I want you to help me compare this sheet here — take it,” and I thrust it towards him.

“I would prefer not to,” said he.

A shotgun wedding and a stain on my shirt
Don’t believe everything that you breathe
You get a parking violation and a maggot on your sleeve
So shave your face with some mace in the dark
Saving all your food stamps and burnin’ down the trailer park
Yo cut it!

I looked at him steadfastly. His face was leanly composed; his gray eyes dimly calm. Not a wrinkle of agitation rippled him. Had there been the least uneasiness, anger, impatience or impertinence in his manner; in other words, had there been anything ordinarily human about him, doubtless I should have violently dismissed him from the premises.

Soy un perdedor
I’m a loser baby
So why don’t you kill me?

But as it was I should have as soon thought of turning my pale plaster-of-Paris bust of Cicero out of doors. I stood gazing at him awhile, as he went on with his own writing, and then reseated myself at my desk. This is very strange, thought I. What had one best do?

(double-barrel buckshot)
Soy un perdedor
I’m a loser baby
So why don’t you kill me?

Try one yourself!


  1. ladymathematician

    Excellent. Have you seen Bartleby The Movie?

  2. Neil

    Happy now, Sophia? One lousy comment. Even YOU didn’t bother to comment.

  3. akaky

    You did the wrong Melville, Neal. When you think of it, who reads Bartleby nowadays except English professors? And, of course, college students who’ll spend the day wondering what the hell this thing is all about and why cant they just look at the graphic novel version of this thing so they can tell what the hell is going on. No, if you want comments on Meliville, you have to go to the big megilla himself, Moby Dick. Let’s face reality, no one gives a rat’s ass about Bartleby, but everyone loves the whale, except, of course, Ahab, and he has to hate the whale or the story ends in the first chapter. So the next time you feel the need to do a mash up, try Moby Dick and something by Eminem, or maybe you could do the whale hunt at the end of the book to the tune of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyires from Die Walkure, or is that too Francis Ford Coppolaish? “I love the smell of whale oil in the morning…it smells like…victory.” No, I dont think that’s gonna fly. Eminem would probably work better in this case.

  4. Neil

    Thank God for Akaky. He’ll comment on anything.

  5. Tatyana

    …and that’s why some of us, ahem, are coming back over and over and searching your comment section. Guaranteed to bring Duchenne smile on our collective lips. (wtf is that? you’ll see if you read this incredible piece of…er…research, which incidentally further signifies your empirical data with regards to Flora’s little children)

    Found via MBlowhard’s link, albeit on a different subject, to an entertaining online publication.

  6. Jill

    I could potentially become addicted to this. It’s like the bastard child of my 90 gig hard drive of mp3s and the wall of flimsy Ikea bookshelves that is about to fall down right on top of it.

  7. He's Dead, Jim!

    My vote is for Edgar Allan and the Pogues.
    “The Cask of Whiskey, You’re the Devil” or “Dead Man Walking in the Rue Morgue?”

  8. mernitman

    You know at least one person’s happy to see your Melvillian/Beckosian skills given their rightful showcase in the anals of Neilochkia. Well done sir; two turntables and a big harpoon!

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