Robert Steinbeck, The Leaping Pebble: a Philosophical Novel, ed. and foreword by James Lewes, Gertrude Felix and Ray Harms (Edinburgh: Stott Books, 2002), 198pp.
Speculative biomedical ethics meets dancehall reverie in this elegant folio reprint of the hard-to-find private press original (1908). Editorial cuts by Lewes et al. are largely faithful to the author’s intent, unlike Kendal’s bowdlerising excisions of 1934 (though see Selene Camphor, ‘Kendal, Steinbeck et le problème de proprioception’ in Études baltiques 65 for an alternative view). Relocating the scene of the ambiguous sexual encounter from Behlersee (Schleswig-Holstein) to Battersea (Wandsworth) is an interesting move, though it does make the appearance of the famous black stork a bit anomalous.
For anyone with even the slightest interest in whether the neural correlates of consciousness might be understood via a bedsheet tied to broomhandles on which coloured images flurry, settle, detach like film of ashes, this is a must. Otherwise wait for the stage adaptation. If chatroom gossip is correct, this will be set in Thessaloniki circa 2030, and opens with Ludwig (Robert Redford) attempting to fence DNA stolen from a medieval saint’s fingerbone.
This review is forthcoming in City State: New London Poetry (May 20th 2009, penned in the margins). Gists & Piths will be serialising a number of James Wilkes' reviews over the next few weeks.