Pepys Erasure Project, Vol. 1: back to the future

Another year of Pepys erasures, done and dusted. And before New Year’s for once! And as I’ve done every year since 2017, I’ve compiled the erasures into a PDF, free for download, samizdat-style circulation, and remixing. Here’s the link. (And if you’ve missed any of the others, you can find all the download links in the last sentence of the top-of-page description of the Pepys Diary Erasure Project.)

Painting of Samuel Pepys as a young man by John Hayls
Painting of Samuel Pepys by John Hayls

Looking again at this painting of Pepys, I’m reminded how much older than him I am this time around: three decades, instead of just the two I had on him last time. But it’s hard to tell how much that might’ve influenced the inevitable change in my perspective on Mr. Pepys, as I’ve gotten to know him over the course of this ten-year-long ‘deep misreading.’ In general, though, my wonderment at people in my own life who resemble Pepys in their energy and ambition has only grown with age, as the erasure project has assumed an increasingly significant role in my otherwise shambolic existence, now that I’ve reached a level of mastery I could barely conceive of ten years ago, when I was still just entranced by the process of erasure and posting any old garbage in my typically impulsive manner. But in defense of my 47-year-old self, Pepys was just a side project at the time, something to be fitted in around other, more exciting projects… which I’ve half-forgotten and can’t even be arsed to look up right now.

I remain deeply grateful to my then-partner Rachel for getting me started on the whole thing, so we’d have an excuse to read it together. Those were great times. But reading my 2013 erasures every morning this year was painful, I’m not going to lie—so many wince-worthy lines! Fortunately, Luisa Igloria and I had plenty of other content, so readers didn’t abandon Via Negativa in droves. I don’t expect I ever would’ve had the nerve to start blogging like that if Luisa hadn’t already joined.

Look at me reminiscing like some kind of geezer! LOL.

I dimly recall that it was partway through the summer of 2014 that something clicked and finally figured out where I was going with Pepys, so I’m excited to see what happens with the project this year: will I be able to coast a little at some point, and just polish previous drafts? There have only been about a half-dozen times when I’ve been able to do that so far. Regardless, I hope to keep going in this till I have PDFs for all ten years of the diary. But I have to tell you, I am already champing at the bit to get started on my next erasure project, and if you know me, you can probably guess what book I have in mind. Superstition prevents me from saying anything further.

Anyway, enjoy the PDF, and do consider sharing it with anyone who might enjoy it. Happy New Year.

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