Microminiaturization leaves enormous spaces to be filled. Disposability of the physical surround has psychological consequences. The example of the child’s anxiety occasioned by the family’s move to a new home may be cited. Everything physical in Paraguay is getting smaller and smaller. Walls thin as a thought, locomotive-substitutes no bigger than ball-point pens. Paraguay, then, has big empty spaces in which men wander, trying to touch something. Preoccupation with skin (on and off, wrinkling, the new skin, pink, fresh, taut) possibly a response to this. Stories about skin, histories of particular skins. But no jokes! Some 700,000 photographs of nuclear events were lost when the great library of Paraguay burned. Particle identification was set back many years. Rather than re-create the former physics, a new physics based on the golden section (proliferation of sections) was constructed. As a system of explanation almost certain to be incorrect it enjoys enormous prestige here.

Donald Barthelme

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