Five, he explains, is an exercise. Riffing on Stanley Milgram's famous "six degrees of separation" experiment, Lockhart wrote "Second Hand," and passed it on to his cohort John S. Beckman, who then rewrote the story so that it would match the theoretical approach--if not the content--of the first incarnation. "Second Hand" was rewritten five times, and each version is available in Five.
Lockhart's own story might have any number of tellings. After leaving a Ph.D. program at Cornell University with an unfinished dissertation on 19th- and 20th-century French literature, he started realizing that his writing was not the academic norm. "My analyses tend to be very careful textual analyses, down to the last detail. I can write 120 pages on one sonnet," he says. "[In my dissertation] I didn't want to cite books from other people. I write directly from the text. I don't read criticism from anybody. And the academy took issue with me because they think I'm making it all up. And to a certain degree, I am.
"I became one of the top candidates in the country for the top jobs in the country, but ultimately, I was passed over. For every job, I was number two."
These days, Lockhart isn't as worried about satisfying his readers. "I'm not interested in self-expression, in writing something that comes back to me," he says, remarking that Baudelaire's poem "To the Reader" best summarizes his outlook about poetry. "Baudelaire essentially says to the reader, 'Listen, we're not going in the same direction toward some sort of a unity. We're both starting in the center and going off in opposite ways. It's a non-correspondence.'"
Which, of course, is a perfect way to describe the interaction between Unarmed's writers and its readers. Because the people who pick up this zine are completely unknown, writers are free to do whatever they want.
Lockhart takes another book down from the shelf. "I was listening to a tape that a friend had made of an interview that Derrida had done," Lockhart says, adding that he once studied with that theorist in France. "It was an interview for a Japanese magazine. And somebody said to him, 'Who do you write for? And why do you write?' Derrida just went into hysterics. He said, 'I write to forget. I do not write in order to reread, or to remember what I said. To the contrary, I write in order to not remember what I have in my mind.'
The poor Japanese guys were like, 'What the hell are you talking about?' They ended up practically getting into a fistfight with him, until Derrida finally said"--Lockhart leans back from his chair and shakes his head vehemently--"This interview is over!"