When I mention magic I remember Frank Kermode in his essay Between Time and Eternity, writing, "All plots have something in common with prophecy, for they must appear to educe from the prime matter of the situation the forms of a future," and I wonder vaguely about the predictive or coercive power of systems (a system in itself is a prediction; to note a system is to note a prediction) -- and also I consider the mechanisms that trigger or indicate or introduce you to those systems, and then naturally I think of the aged horse in the opening pages of The Recollections of Geoffrey Hamlyn (1859), that book by Henry Kingsley, the brother of Charles (The Water Babies (1862-63, serialised)).
"Bless me!" I said; "You don't mean to say that that old horse is alive still?"
"He looks like it," said the major. "He'd carry you a mile or two, yet."
"I thought he had died while I was in England," I said. "Ah, major, that horse's history would be worth writing."
"If you began," answered the major, "to write the history of the horse, you must write also the history of every body who was concerned in those circumstances which caused Sam to take a certain famous ride upon him. And you would find that the history of the horse would be reduced into very small compass, and that the rest of your book would assume proportions too vast for the human intellect to grasp."
"How so?" I said.
He entered into certain details, which I will not give. "You would have," he said, "to begin at the end of the last century, and bring one gradually on to the present time. Good heavens! just consider."
"I think you exaggerate," I said.
"Not at all," he answered. "You must begin the histories of the Buckley and Thornton families in the last generation. The Brentwoods also, must not be omitted,-- why there's work for several years."
So if you tell the story of those families then you will also have to tell the stories of the people connected to them and so on and so on until by Major Buckley's logic the entire world is swallowed (recalling that Ruskin in one book contemplates the holy profusion of leaves), which is the problem Gertrude Stein enunciated in The Making of Americans, when she talks about the neighbours and then the neighbours of the neighbours, until she reaches the same conclusion as Major Buckley, this playful and useless idea that any grossly representational book would be "too vast for the human intellect to grasp" and what does that say about the human intellect and also Kingsley's playfulness, and then Gertrude Stein's playfulness, which is an oblique or self-defending reflex, and also self-conquering as it indicates that it is biting off more than it can chew, in fact creating that too-much obstacle and showing it to you so that it can throw up its hands and say, "Non" – here is the book desiring to have that Non-action inside itself and going to these abnormal lengths to get it, and asking you to observe its crippledness, its broken-wingedness, ha, ha, ha?