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June 2, 2011 3:31 PM   Subscribe

What are examples of the most entertaining artistic/literary/creative metadata?

I want your favorite entertaining, well-written, overly detailed, funny, or insane notes/directions/etc. that are part of a creative work but are not meant to be noticeable in its final production. Like memorable bits of theatrical stage direction, musical notation, computer code notes, cookbook instructions, etc. The audience doesn't see them, just their results: be those results a stage play, an orchestra performance, a spreadsheet program, or a tasty cake.

Examples:
- This post's title is from "The Winter's Tale" by Shakespeare and is the most famous scene direction ever. The bear eats the guy offstage.
- The poetry slam piece Kite by Rives includes this performance direction:
(HERE I HOLD MY HAND UP LIKE A SOCK PUPPET
WITHOUT THE SOCK AND MY HAND TEASES ME
IN A HIGH, SMUTTY VOICE)

I'm NOT looking for--but wouldn't mind seeing--text back matter that is meant to be seen/read, but is technically optional, like translator's notes or historical notes. I DON'T need notes that are part of the narrative, like Mark Z. Danielewski's appendices and Terry Pratchett's footnotes.

Examples:
- I would read the excellent manga The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service anyway, but it's made more awesome by the increasingly cranky and wry translator's notes at the back.
- Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov is a bad example, because it's a novel and its back matter is part of the narrative. But a major point/joke/something of the book is that it's ostensibly a poetry collection annotated by a professor who is incredibly pompous and/or crazy. Any fun real-life examples of this?
posted by nicebookrack to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 


This may or may not be true, but I've read in multiple places that a small group of actors mumbling the word "rhubarb" backstage simulates crowd hubub.

Come to think of it, "hubub" would probably work well, too... :)
posted by Quisp Lover at 3:54 PM on June 2, 2011


Harry Mathews "recipe" for Roast Boned Rolled Stuffed Shoulder of Lamb - i.e. an ingredient is to be "rubbed with pumice stone to a thinness approaching nonexistence".
posted by Trurl at 4:03 PM on June 2, 2011


Some directions on Erik Satie's piano scores:

"with much illness"
"from the top of your back teeth"
"do your best"
"with great kindness"
"arm yourself with clairvoyance"
posted by neroli at 4:11 PM on June 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


"arm yourself with clairvoyance"

My new motto for life!
posted by nicebookrack at 4:16 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure if this counts, because the directions double as movement titles, but the first two movements of Toru Takemitsu's Pause ininterrompue are called and have the directions "Slowly, sadly and as if to converse with" and "Quietly and with a cruel reverberation," respectively.
posted by invitapriore at 4:20 PM on June 2, 2011


Here's the best stage direction in Waiting for Godot:
ESTRAGON: Use your intelligence, can't you?
(Vladimir uses his intelligence.)
Eugène Ionesco's The Bald Soprano contains footnotes about productions of the play that never actually happened, since they were included before it had ever been performed. Many of these contradict the text:
[She hurls the socks across the stage and shows her teeth. She gets up.*]

*In Nicolas Bataille's production, Mrs. Smith did not show her teeth, nor did she throw the socks very far.

[They kiss him.*]

*In Nicolas Bataille's production, they did not kiss the fire chief.
You should also consider the very common practice of authors pretending to be merely editors of someone else's work; the examples are too many to name. And there's the entire genre of metafition too.
posted by Chicken Boolean at 4:57 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


From Paragraph 5 of Cornelius Cardew's semi-improvised music work The Great Learning:

"Preparation: spend time with the Masters of Plink in their hierarchy: Hugh Shrapnel, Christian Wolff, Webern, God. And on their work.".

And the various texts for Karlheinz Stockhausen's "Intuitive Music" pieces like Auf Den Sieben Tagen, which are compositions in the form of a description of the state that a musician should get themselves into in order to play the piece, such as:

Play a sound
with the certainty
that you have an infinite amount of time
and space
posted by Jabberwocky at 5:40 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Alan Moore's comic scripts are full of notes, erratta, and strange junk. The first result for Googling Alan Moore Scripts gets me this Killing Joke script, and the first paragraph:

WELL, I’VE CHECKED THE LANDING GEAR, FASTENED MY SEATBELT, SWALLOWED MY CIGAR IN A SINGLE GULP AND GROUND MY SCOTCH AND SODA OUT IN THE ASTRAY PROVIDED, SO I SUPPOSE WE’RE ALL SET FOR TAKE OFF. BEFORE WE GO SCREECHING OFF INTO THOSE ANGRY CREATIVE SKIES FROM WHICH WE MAY BOTH WELL RETURN AS BLACKENED CINDERS, I SUPPOSE A FEW PRELIMINARY NOTES ARE IN ORDER, SO SIT BACK WHILE I RUN THROUGH THEM WITH ACCOMPANYING HAND MOVEMENTS FROM OUT CHARMING STEWARDESS IN THE CENTRE AISLE.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:51 PM on June 2, 2011


The quite hilarious (especially when well performed) "The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged)" contains many footnotes not intended to be performed. TVtropes says "The great number, to be exact, is 11188, but on closer examination footnotes 100 through 179, 200 through 1179 and 1200 through 11179 appear to have been skipped."

In a quite different vein, the pen-and-paper RPG Paranoia has a lot of funny behind the scenes content intended for the GM, that the ideally the players are not supposed to read/know about.
posted by haveanicesummer at 8:01 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Speaking of the Princess Bride-- the conceit of the original novel is that author William Goldman is not actually the author; he's just editing a book by the fictional S. Morgenstern. Throughout, there are numerous asides about the stuff he is (supposedly) cutting out from the original book.

Now, you specify that you're not looking for notes that are part of the narrative, so those asides don't fit. But there's a twist, which I think might meet your requirements:

At one point in the book, Goldman tells you that he wanted to write a new chapter for the book, but that the Morgenstern estate wouldn't let him. However, if you send in a SASE to the publisher, he will send you the new chapter by mail.

I dutifully sent off a SASE, and was delighted to get back a long printed response explaining all the complicated legal reasons he could send out the new chapter, no matter how much he wanted to.

Not sure if this counts as "back matter that is meant to be seen/read, but is technically optional," but it seems in the spirit of the question.
posted by yankeefog at 8:44 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, and also, screenwriter Shane Black is famous for including asides to the reader in his screenplays. In his script for "Lethal Weapon," there's a stage direction that describes one of the characters' house as "Just like the house I'm going to buy when I sell this script for a million dollars." (I couldn't find the script online, so I'm paraphrasing from memory.)
posted by yankeefog at 8:48 AM on June 3, 2011


Not a direct answer, but this question reminds me of a public engagement workshop at UCL called Playing the Margins, exploring the impact of annotations on drama. I know both of the people organizing it, and I'm sure they would be happy to talk to you about examples they found in the research stages.
posted by bibliophibianj at 12:36 AM on June 4, 2011


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