When I was young (was I ever thus?), there were several written languages deemed forever lost. I haven’t lived forever but I have lived long enough to see those skeptics called on the carpet. Nyah!
Maya hieroglyphs—those feathered and be-jewelled staypuff marshmallow guys—turned out to be syllables, consonant-vowel pairs that string into words, not unlike Japanese phonemes.
I still laugh at an old library catalogue card (remember those?) for a new book about Frank Lloyd Wright: There beneath a string of characters I could never hope to read were their English translation: Fu Ran Ku Roi Do Rai To. Say it aloud and smile at the way a native Japanese ear hears a Western name and makes Japanese sense of it. So we can now read what the Maya wrote and find them revealed as genealogical time freaks. And not a moment too soon. Makes December 20, 2012 all the more poignant.
The Walden Folio
The Walden Folio (as it’s called) came to light about 1970. [I’d like to say the same for myself.] This time capsule of oil paintings by a resident at Walden Retreat is the only known example of Reinhold Kölb’s art therapy exercises from the mid-1940s. Aggressively painted but hesitantly signed, these dozen works want to speak. They plead to tell of a world seen by only one of us, presumably a changing world, shifting from darkness to light as a fellow creature rejoins the Company of Man. I think Howard is beginning to see them—in all their incompleteness—as a graphic novel, a story without words from an author who may have had none.