“You see?” said Knarf, suddenly rounding on Ord.
“What about the story?” Ord asked. “It seems to have bogged down in world history. Did it ever get out again?”
“The story goes on, but as the book rises to its crisis it shifts into the major theme of the whole community. It is people in a context and the context grows more and more important. They are only little fishes in a maelstrom.”
“I'm fond of fish,” said Ord, obstinately, determined to get Knarf off his high horse. “What happened to that poor fish, Ally?”
… … …
Ally wasn't so much a fish as a limpet.
Marking a narrative break in the twenty-fourth-century writer Knarf's novel about world war II, a novel Knarf recounts orally to his Friend Ord, this passage From Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow (1947; 342-43), by M. Barnard Eldershaw (pseudonym of Marjorie Barnard and Flora Eldershaw), enacts a scene of collaboration, falling just short of “full and equal” partnership (though perhaps all literary collaboration must thus fall). Knarf is a reader of his own text, a listener to his own story; the writer is continually in conversation—disagreeing and agreeing with—a would-be writer of the text; that conversation inflects, indeed inscribes itself in, the writer's writing, so that the would-be other writer—who is a reader and listener too—becomes inseparable from the text in process. Thematically contained in these relations, but also uncontainably circumscribing them, are “world history” and “community”: those suprapersonal entities both demand and are produced by collaboration(ism), yet they also overwhelm, dwarf, or marginalize “little fishes” like Ally, Ord, and Knarf. But, then again, world history and community are themselves elusive if meant as much more than fictions about and by little fishes, riding on their high horses.