The secret of the secret of Joe Gould’s Secret

After reading this, I’m too sad and overwhelmed to really say much, except that it’s a great piece of work. Mitchell was one of my early writing heroes. Joe Gould’s Secret is probably his most famous story.

“Meo Tempore. Seventh Version. Volume II” also contains an essay written in Gould’s hand. It is titled “Insanity.” I peered at the page of white with veins of blue. And there I read, “If we could see ourselves as we really are, life would be insupportable.”

“Insanity is a topic of peculiar interest to me,” Gould explained. He had toured New York’s insane asylums as part of his eugenics training. He’d met a woman in a ward at Central Islip: sometimes she thought she was a cat, sometimes a mouse. “Is there really much difference between her and a sane person, after all?” Gould asked. “We all spend our lives chasing into darkness.”

Special reader’s bonus: Joe Gould and the Baroness


  1. The “was” of “was one of my early writing heroes” is duly noted with due puzzlement.

    Also, the link is only good if you subscribe. Any way around it?


    • Broderick Barker says

      I’m not a subscriber; I read it by just visiting the site and clicking on the story. Maybe that’ll work?

      The “was” will probably be back to “is” in a day or so. It’s just a little hard to learn that he was not just an embellisher, but a fabulist, that he ignored so much in reporting on Joe Gould, and that he didn’t go to the man’s funeral.

  2. Quin Finnegan says

    Saw it this morning and thought of both of yous. I’m subscribing again—can’t help myself—so I can forward you a copy, if you like.

  3. Big Jon Bully says

    Rings a bell, may have met him through a mutual friend named Gertrude Stein. Fun at parties.

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