FELDMAN AND THE INFINITE (performance excerpt 2)
In 1975, Joseph Feldman, a 58-year-old lawyer in New York City, was discovered to have stolen 15,000 books from the New York Public Library.
He had rented two or three apartments in the West Village specifically to store these books, and it took 20 men, 7 truckloads over 3 days to remove them all.
Books covered the stove.
Books filled the bathtub and sinks.
There was only a small passageway leading through the apartment, not room enough to live.
But why did he do it ?
Was he obsessively hoarding ?
Making a political statement ?
Making conceptual art ?
Or was he simply, as he told the judge who tried his case, reading ?
There are no accidents...
FELDMAN AND THE INFINITE
A PLAY BY ERIKA MIJLIN
Feldman and the Infinite is a new play that speculates about Feldmans motives, about seeking knowledge and enlightenment, and finding what appears to be randomness and chaos.
Feldman turns to his landlord, and his new acquaintance, the sculptor Christo, for guidance through the maze of his own obsession - told with humor, passion, and love for the library and its contents.
First performed :
Artifact Pictures Studios
Philadelphia Fringe Festival
Sept 11-13, 2008
Julie Goldstein / eilujion
Feldman : Jerry Perna
Christo : Ted Borodaeff
Apeiron (The Landlord) : Jeffrey Adam Baxt
Tags: theatre performance theater books library theft new york christo public apeiron play book lover hoarding compulsive apollo moon landing
Added: 4 years ago
[scene opens in Feldman's apartment, as he sits at his table speaking with Christo]
CHRISTO: Why must you steal the books?
FELDMAN: Have you ever been to the library, Christo? I mean the Central Library, the one that gave birth to all of the others. The big one, have you been there, to Forty Second Street?
[Christo shakes his head, causing Feldman to smile and stand up]
FELDMAN: Oh, it is a temple, Christo. It is, it is a holy place.
[he starts pacing around the room, looking at the stacks of books surrounding him]
FELDMAN: It is divine. Unearthly quiet, though it is full of humanity and full of words and a reading room that makes you feel that all that matters is the time necessary to read them all ... Maybe that's all I need. Maybe that is all I need, is time. But at the library, I feel so finite. They have a system there, you know, the stacks. Most of the books are in the stacks, and the stacks are hidden.
[he turns and looks at Christo]
FELDMAN: You can't touch them, and neither can I. You must first submit a request ... Um, a small form, a sheet, a paper. Every book has a number, and every number has a place in the stacks.
[he picks up a pen and starts writing in a notepad]
FELDMAN: I write my number on a form, and I give it to the lady, and she puts it in a tube, and it goes somewhere, somewhere I can't see ... called "the stacks." Oh, it must be incredible. Stories underground, far below the quiet prayers being filled out on forms here in the reading room.
[he steps over some piles of books on the floor]
FELDMAN: Deep down where shelves stretch out under the city where I work, and the roar of the subway rattles the dust off the books daily! And then someone, some invisible someone, working down there ... answers my prayer, and finds my book in this vastness, and sends it up on an elevator. And they call for me, and I come to them, and I can take it!
[he grabs one of the books off the table, and stares at it longingly]
FELDMAN: And I can look at it, and I can smell it. I can turn the pages.
[he hugs the book to his chest]
FELDMAN: And then when I'm finished ... Oh, I am so obedient! I give it back to them. Or maybe I don't.
[as Christo gets up and looks at him nervously, he slams the book down on the table]
FELDMAN: It isn't right! Why should a person - a man, not an animal, mind you - be kept from this treasure by another man? It isn't right, it's not ... just!
CHRISTO: So your solution is to remove the library? To pilfer it, book by book, into this apartment?
FELDMAN: If I could live there in the stacks, I would! And then I would be the one sending books up on an elevator and always getting them back! But I can't live there, so I rent this place! So this place must become holy! And I, I must become infinite ... like the stacks.
CHRISTO: But you are infinite, Feldman! It was you who did this, when it could've been any other Joseph Feldman in New York! It was you who lept over the astronauts, who aspired to come up from underground ...
[Feldman slumps down in his seat, as Christo stands over him]
CHRISTO: But this is what puzzles me ... By day you work for the city, and on your way home, you violate its very fabric!
[Christo takes the book off the table and "hides" it under his shirt]
CHRISTO: Stopping off at the library and stuffing books under your shirt like a hungry man!
FELDMAN: Don't ...
CHRISTO: Making off with the bread! They would've given 'em to you for free ... but you were still hungry, even after that.
FELDMAN: [quietly] Don't you throw stones, my friend ...
CHRISTO: I don't judge you, Feldman. I see you sitting here among your ill-gotten acquisitions, only wanting to unravel their mysteries!
[he puts his hand on Feldman's shoulder]
CHRISTO: And I see, you are an icon! You are the summary of man! Homo sapien 1975, Exhibit A! Highest aspirations by the crudest of means ...
The Free Lance-Star
Sep 27, 1975
A Library All His Own
NEW YORK (AP) - Joseph Feldman turned himself in Friday after learning from newspaper reports that police were looking for the person who forgot to return 15,000 books borrowed from the New York Public Library.
It took 20 men, seven trucks and three days to clear out the books, valued at $100,000 to $150,000, from Feldman's four-room Greenwich Village apartment, according to Detective Charles Pendergrass.
"There were books everywhere."
Feldman, 58, who said he was an attorney, was charged with criminal possession of stolen property. He faces up to seven years in prison, and the library said he could owe a maximum late-return penalty of $5 a book ... $75,000.
"I do a lot of studying," Feldman said.