About the Name Lists 

Robert Helps, himself possessing an unusually equivocal nom de famille, lovingly and obsessively collected people’s names throughout his life. His sources for these bizarre, almost unbelievable names were never journalistically revealed, yet he insisted that each made reference to a real, existing person, human or otherwise. Some names he found in newspapers, others on plaques announcing New York or San Francisco businesses. Many were clearly culled from word-of-mouth testimonies (some hilariously approximate spellings attest to this), while several (the rare few) refer to persons he actually knew. The bulk of the lists were assembled and sent out to friends as holiday greetings between the years 1970 and 1977. A final, tardy installment entered circulation in 1993.

Whatever the historical basis to the content of the lists, the artistic project announced by this endeavor is on par with the grandest musico-literary frescoes. Helps’ musical ear fell under the spell of the fascinatingly imbalanced phonemes sequenced in these names, and a musician’s sensibility is desirable to guide the reader through this Dada monument of Mahlerian proportions. (Or should one invoke Satie’s Vexations with its 840 repetitions?) Take the challenge yourself – read at least a page from the lists out loud. If you don’t die laughing, continue: Enlightenment may be hidden in the rhythmic ranks of these rank names. At the very least, you’ll find a perfect drag moniker or subversive pseudonym…

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