Vanishing Point A Bookand Websiteby Ander Monson



The dagger is as much a spade as it is a weapon, as much of a tool as it is a gateway to another crypt. You may use it to go deeper into the collective brain of the book and site.

Okay, info time: the dagger has historically also been called a crux (hence its occasional visual relationship to the cross, if not the crucifix) and an obelus. In antiquity, the dagger's function was to indicate a doubtful passage. According to the pretty substantial book Pause and Effect: an Introduction to the History of Punctuation in the West by M. B. Parkes, it was "[o]riginally a critical sign placed in the margin to indicate corruption in the adjacent text." This was in the days of scribes and hand-copying, so it would suggest the presence of the copyist's brain hovering around the text he was copying. Now daggers, along with asterisks, are primarily used to connect a note on a text to a text in the margin, usually a secondary layer of consciousness.

Consider this space, then, a margin around the artifact of the book. These daggers in the artifact access some marginalia here on the website.

It's particularly appropriate, I think, to use the dagger for this purpose, since the codification of most of these typographic symbols happened as a result of the printing press, where all of a sudden type foundries had to standardize these marks in order to create typefaces which could be sold to printers. Imagine that as you're reading this. Type--even writing, the various glyphs we use to make meaning--is such a part of the brain at this point that it's hard to conceive of those days in typing class or keyboarding, or handwriting our crappy high school poems, when we didn't type. And the QWERTY keyboard, it too is an evolving technology (does your keyboard still have SCROLL LOCK or BREAK on it?). For most of us who didn't study much history, or take Latin or Greek, even thinking about the history of glyphs is an oddity. That the dagger, or even the comma, or the semicolon, or even the space between words--that these are in themselves technologies, designed to help the reader parse the text, and that each technology has a story, and that we are not at the end of it.


The text in these margins appears in these margins for a variety of reasons, including:

-- This section is the result of further, later thinking, on further reflection; thus the dagger cuts a little hole in the space between the artifact of book and the sort of brain I hope my essays can be (continually thinking and flexing and returning to some of these old ideas; in most cases these are ideas I capitulated on, or punted on, not being able to advance my thinking beyond the point you see it in the book, and because I'm finally not all that smart, because I wasn't fully sure that I was satisfied with the way things were, but that I couldn't really figure a permanent end-run around it either, so I ended up inserting a kind of pre-footnote that has expanded out into the world, if this is the world, if this is anything aside from an electric space).

-- I wasn't sure what the situation was with this bit, so I daggered it preemptively.

-- This section was edited out of the manuscript in the editing process, but petulantly (rebel, rebel, right) I have restored it, thinking it important, opening up to something bigger.

-- In some cases I daggered a word to denote dissatisfaction with an entire page or word, feeling that there was something unsettled here, even if I couldn't say what.

-- In other cases I daggered things because I liked how they looked with the dagger on them. You start daggering, and soon everything's daggered. If you play video games where you have to attack people with daggers, or with guns, you pretty much start trying to kill everything, even allies, to see if they can be killed or otherwise molested, to test the boundaries and apparent realism of the game world.

-- When I was writing this section I heard the sound of a helicopter outside the window. This happens with surprising regularity in Tucson, Arizona, and indicates that the police are looking for someone wanted or otherwise hunted, on the run, maybe on the rum, possibly with a weapon, conceivably a dagger. Can you blame them for running, for looking? Choppers are necessary, I suppose, because the city is a dark city, in that lights are curtailed in order to ensure the stars can be more easily seen for the astronomer types at the university. Listening to the chopper I thought a moment of further recollection, retrospection, or whatever might be a useful thing to open up. So I slipped the dagger in. And this is what bled out the other side.

-- I thought my thought on this might change and I wanted to stake it with a dagger while I could, to pin it down, or to at least pin its uncertainty down. It's hard to be certain. It's easier to be certain when you're uncertain. Of course I could be wrong about most, or any of this.

When I think of the dagger, I am thinking of the Slowdive song, yes.

In Dungeons & Dragons, a dagger is a fairly weak, if fast and easily concealed, weapon. Depending on your character's size it causes from 1 hit point damage (for a miniscule character) up to 18 (for a "colossal" character). Most characters will roll 1d4 or 1d6 (one 4-sided die or one six-sided die) to determine how much damage their action causes. These dice rolls start to define your life when you play D&D (more on that in "Geas" in the book), and you get really attached to your cool D&D dice. Most players have at least 3d4, 3d6, 2d8, 2d10, maybe a couple d12, and the awesome looking one, the d20, the dodecahedron. At various points I also owned 30-sided dice, and one hundred-sided die which was extremely difficult to read (so small were the sides, you couldn't tell which number you rolled).

The dagger has ceremonial connotations as well as treacherous and academic ones, which aren't always mutually exclusive.

Take these sections however you like. Obviously you've come here so you've taken notice enough. So: good. Let's go!