15 February 2010
I would be more comfortable with the idea that The Part About Amalfitano is told from Amalfitano's point of view, rather than that he is the narrator. Occasionally, amid that narration we have the luxury of reading his own thoughts exactly as they occur to him and in the order they occur to him. But then, admittedly, my own comfort is beside the point.
Whatever, I get to the same point as Matt does but by a bit longer route. These interjections amid the quotations from Calvin Tomkins seem to me clearly to be Amalfitano's thoughts as he reconsiders the story as Tomkins told it. When he thinks that Duchamp was not just playing chess in Buenos Aires, he is initially admiring the conception of the wedding gift. Then when he considers that Duchamp himself really did not do anything but conceive the idea, he concludes that Duchamp was in fact only playing chess, but playing chess with pure ideas.
It is perfectly valid for us as readers to consider this experiment meaningless, just as Yvonne obviously so regarded all of Duchamp's “play-science” of that time. I have difficulty concluding that Amalfitano considered the experiment meaningless, however. If he did, why then did he himself hang out the Dieste book?
The answer to that question is that perhaps he did consider the experiment meaningless as he hung out the Dieste book. In which case it might simply have been only a gesture demonstrating his own growing doubts about the meaningfulness of his own identity, a professor of philosophy, a chess player playing with pure ideas.