“Stanley Toothbrush,” Terry Carr, 1962 – A man contemplates the absurdity of the sounds of language. In doing so, he “disbelieves” his shelves out of existence. His girlfriend later tells him of her fantasy man, Stanley Toothbrush–and Toothbrush suddenly arrives at her doorstep.
Comments: Read in Other Dimensions. A humorous piece about the arbitrariness of the sounds paired with words (sign/signifier). The story is discussed in Fiona Kelleghan’s interview with Jonathan Lethem, “Private Hells and Radical Doubts: An Interview with Jonathan Lethem“:
“‘Stanley Toothbrush’ is a Terry Carr story where the main character is a hapless lover who has a girlfriend and an office job. One morning he wakes up saying the word ‘shelf’to himself again and again and again until the word loses its meaning, and he hears a clatter in the back of his apartment and all the shelves have disappeared. It turns out that, for him, when he wears words out, which is exactly what my character in ‘Using It and Losing It’ does, they disappear from the world. In a funny way, ‘Using It and Losing It’ is a reverse of my normal method, because I usually take metaphors and concretize them. In fact what I did was re-metaphorize Terry Carr’s short story. I made it a mental story instead of a physical story. In my story, when you wear words out, you lose them from your vocabulary. And in Terry’s, when you wear words out, the objects disappear from the world. So it’s exactly the opposite of the process that I normally apply to other writers’ work.”
Author: Wikipedia: “Terry Gene Carr (February 19, 1937 – April 7, 1987) was a U.S. science fiction fan, author, editor, and writing instructor.”