If you're stuck in a browser frame - click here to view this same page in Quantonics!

A Review

of Sam Rosenberg's

The Come as You Are Masquerade Party

Chapter III

subtitled -

'William James Sidis:

The Streetcar Named Paradise Lost'

by Doug Renselle


Revisions: see these marks below: (Rev. 14Jun2000, correct Hesse Nobel Prize attribution; Rev. 2Sep1999, add note 5.5; rev. 6Nov1999, extend note 7.)

Sam Rosenberg Links of Potential Interest:

An Obituary — Samuel Rosenberg, Literary Psychosleuth was 85 and lived in Queens, NY died Jan. 5, 1996 of Parkinson's syndrome.

Acronyms used in this review:
 DQ  - Dynamic Quality
 IMO  - In my opinion
 M3K  - Millennium 3000 Problem
 MoQ  - Metaphysics of Quality (Pirsig)
 SOM  - Subject-Object Metaphysics
 SOMite  - A devout practitioner of SOM
 WWW  - World Wide Web
 ZMM  - Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

My perspective of Chapter III of Sam Rosenberg's, The Come as You Are Masquerade Party,
Subtitled - 'William James Sidis, The Streetcar Named Paradise Lost,'
____________________________________________________________1970, Prentice Hall first edition hardbound, 204 pages, no index -
____________________________________________________________Chapter III pages 67-102
Doug Renselle

Before we start our review of chapter 3, allow us to make some interesting connections for you. We found this book by reference from our first edition copy of Amy Wallace's 1986, The Prodigy, which we review nearby. Please recall how Amy told us in her book Fuller reviewed Sidis' The Animate and the Inanimate. And note Buckminster Fuller's Foreword in Rosenberg's book, here, too. It is interesting to consider how Rosenberg perceives Sidis as a fellow trivialist, and how Sidis antedated Rosenberg's generation two score years or more. It is also interesting to correlate Rosenberg's publish date of 1970 with Pirsig's first publication of ZMM in 1974. Two other connections are our own Quantonic depiction of a pseudo duality of both paradise and paradice 1, and Pirsig's sign in Lila pointing to Paradise, always just around any next corner. Consider alternate semantic value of, 'The Streetcar Named Paradice Lost.' As you read this review, you will find ample other fascinating nexuses. As you read, ask yourself, "When Rosenberg decoded Sidis' works, did he miss any lost paradice, any lost sophisms?"

Sam Rosenberg's, The Come as You Are Masquerade Party, is soul borne beatific and quasi-spiritual work of one of humankind's most diligent trivialists in USA's 20th century. Sam's work shows his gift as a purveyor of apparently pointless profundities who deals detail and finds copious connections in unexpected utopia.

Those of you with serious interest in William James Sidis will find this review and Sam's book mandatory perusals. Our review is short and sweet, so sit back and enjoy.

His book has a Foreword, Introduction, and seven chapters. We focus only on Sidis-related chapter 3 which we review for you here:

Foreword by Buckminster Fuller
  1. The Confessions of a Trivialist
  2. Frankenstein, or Daddy's Little Monster
  3. William James Sidis: The Streetcar Named Paradise Lost
  4. Who is Santa Claus?
  5. Albert Schweitzer: The Man from Strasbourg
  6. Never Look Back, Darling! (The Mysterious Case of Lot's Wife)
  7. Come Out, Herman Melville, Wherever You Are! (The Man Who Turned to Stone)

Never have we seen a book quite like this one. Rosenberg's interests appear unlimited in scope. So his seven chapters prance stochastically through a seemingly infinite spectrum of trivia and surprising links which leave his readers awed and incredulous. 2

OK, let's look at what Rosenberg says about Sidis in chapter 3.

First he covers material familiar to us from Amy's The Prodigy, so we will not reproduce it here. But he does tell us William's father Boris believed prodigious children are not born, but made, and Boris mastered scientific teaching techniques to do it 3.

Rosenberg tells us Sidis matriculated Harvard earlier than anyone. He did it at age 11. Prior, Cotton Mather owned this record by matriculating Harvard at age 12 in 1674!

William's early matriculation caused him great stress and he suffered a breakdown a year later. Boris admitted him to his sanatorium in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Subsequently, William returned to Harvard and graduated magna cum laude. Apparently Fuller attended Harvard with Sidis, and told Rosenberg everyone considered him a freak, but still, everyone predicted great success for William after graduation.

Rosenberg confirms Amy's comments about Sidis' difficulties with common, everyday life experiences. He tells us William withdrew from society and focused his interests on topics like: a lost tribe of Okammakammassett Indians, a lost continent of Atlantis, peridromophily, collection of streetcar transfer slips, etc.

Rosenberg's obsession is finding an answer to this question: Why did someone with Sidis' talents and genius forego a life of scholarship, success, and opportunity?

Rosenberg posits a clue in Boris' naming William after one of America's great philosophers: William James. Rosenberg quotes William James' own words which we paraphrase here: "I dislike attempts at celebrity and greatness in all their forms 4. Pride is humankind's nemesis. Big egos are both hollow and mean, together. I am against big successes and results. I favor underdogs who arrive on top long after they are gone."

Rosenberg portrays Sidis trapped by American society's swollen expectations ("the dream") and concomitant dislike of any non-egotistical avoider of celebrity. Sidis, indeed, was a rare American genius. We rewarded him by hounding him relentlessly 5. Rosenberg compares Sidis to others who achieved fame and vanished celebrity's lime. His examples are: Shirley Temple and Master Baby Leroy.

Rosenberg tells us several authors tried to punish Boris for William's apparent failures and early death. They compared Boris to Svengali and Dr. Frankenstein. Egads! Some even declared Boris receiving God's wrath by taking him away early and by rolling back William's IQ. This kind of dunder-headed bat scat persisted for years after William's death, and you may find whole sites on WWW's Internet dedicated to this meso-minded meme, still, today.

Rosenberg introduces us to a fellow named Edward T. (Ted) Frankel who worked with Sidis. Frankel is someone Amy Wallace comments about who describes a hilarious scene: Imagine Sidis' intentional camouflage against a supervisor's (J.M. Robertson's) clandestine observations of Sidis' work. Imagine Robertson trying to assess whether Sidis uses a mechanical calculator or his prodigious mind to solve problems. Chaplinesque hide 'n seek!

Frankel sympathized with Sidis' tribulations at work. People simply would not let him do his job. No one wanted Sidis to do what he wanted. Virtually every employer wanted him to accept promotions to higher positions where he could serve what they wanted him to do. (I like to imagine Sidis today as a secluded virtual worker using a vast network (global cohesion) to pursue opportunities according his own volition (individual autonomy). Certainly his life would be different and, in my imagination, better.) Sidis disliked workplace oppression so much that even when friendly folk asked him to join discussion groups on mathematics or philosophy, he angrily refused, saying he forgot all of that. Rosenberg tells us he slipped one day when he was shown a complicated, but incomplete table of statistics. Sidis showed how to fix his coworkers' problem simply. Obviously he had not forgotten anything. His momentary again-uncloaked brilliance increased pressure for more, and he had to quit.

Frankel told Rosenberg Sidis was like a genius child-adult, able to solve big and complex problems, but unable to prepare routine job applications and write letters of introduction. Suddenly, he disappeared. Frankel got a few postcards, then even those stopped.

Rosenberg's own genius compares William James Sidis to one celebrated American writer: Herman Melville. Melville's story Bartleby the Scrivener (1853), is about a clerk who would only copy law briefs at four cents per sheet. Asked to do more, he said, "I prefer not to." Asked to advance, he answered same. Finally he quit, and when his boss heard he was in a poor house, went to rescue him. Sadly he found Bartleby apparently saying posthumously to his own life, "I prefer not to." And talk about self-portrayal, Melville, shortly after finishing his Bartleby work, stopped writing, took a menial job and spent his life becoming (in the dreamers' eyes) America's biggest ex-celebrity writer-flunky.

Rosenberg describes Sidis' works as repellent, impenetrable. Rosenberg, a great detective, surmises Sidis was intentional, even vengeful. Rosenberg thinks Sidis' extensive writing on transfers is a giant hoax! Wow! Mom! How does that bend your brain? Makes one think of secret codes and filiations to Poe's The Gold-Bug in Richard Powers' awesome The Gold Bug Variations.

Rosenberg equates Sidis' obsession with transfers as mania after he quotes Sidis' description of his own 15 hour streetcar ride through New York City with intention of collecting 40 brand new and unique transfers. Rosenberg calls anyone who reads his whole quote of Sidis' description of that trolleyed peregrination a 'meshuga.' We didn't! Did you?

Sidis goes on to describe how in New Jersey, before 1Oct1923, one could, on a single one cent transfer, following Sidis' plan, collect no fewer than 110 transfers in a minimum 50 hours continuous traveling!

Rosenberg was about to give up! Sidis' writing appeared impermeably esoteric. He was just about to say Sidis was a common maniac and drop his whole detective effort!

But he noticed in Sidis' preface Sidis mentions, "ordinary reader,." should skip all dull technical stuff and read his last chapter. Sam groaned, "That's me!" and recognized a first glimmer of light. Sidis was using, "some rather daft" mnemonic poems to memorize his work and experiences 5.5.

For example, Rosenberg deciphered Sidis' code and uncovered Sidis' first verse as an epic poem saga of an ancient Indian bean hole which later became Boston subway. Sam shows us his decoding of Sidis' mnemonic poetry, which I will leave to you to affirm on your own. More poems and quatrains follow and Sidis concludes with an anthology.

So, Sidis did wreak his intellectual spite on academics' and media's ex-cathedra's tiny synthetic, systematized, and still provincial, celebrity-centered, IQ-measuring, anti-Jamesian, less than finite, anthropocentric, Homo sapien minds. Bravo! Sidis.

Sam Rosenberg persists for more...

Another clue arose in a 'joke.' Sidis describes a funny situation. After a riot by college men in a subway, one of them attempts to delude an officer, "But it was all a mistake! I had no intention of striking that officer! I assumed he was only a conductor." Sam sees a strong nexus to burlesque here, especially, "Who was d'Lady I see'd you wit' last night?" Hmmmmm... "Dat be no lady, dat m'wife!" Hmmmm... Rosenberg says, Sidis is now revealing his personal coded secrets. Sam relates this code to Sidis' earlier adventure (see Amy Wallace's Sidis bio too) where he was arrested in Boston's May Day riots, and Sidis blurts, "That was no policeman, that was my conductor!" Reader, a lot is left out here, and we are brutalizing Sam's original text to avoid verbatim copying. Find his book and enjoy this with a cold beer or a hot cup of cocoa. Great stuff — from-to two too-great minds.

Sam discovers every joke, when he decodes what Sidis encoded, sadly reveals a connection to disastrous events in Sidis' childhood.

Sam ejaculates Sidistic essence in few words, "Genius using genius to feign stupidity." Inverse Oscar Wilde 6! Undecoded and taken at face, Sidis' works would have Sam betting on his stupidity. An effective genius 7!

Sam asks, "Did William's prodigious role-playing contribute to Boris' need to author four books on schizophrenia? 8"

Now we know what William James Sidis really had in mind. Thanks, Sam Rosenberg. I wish we could interview you for this review...but perhaps you are just here...near our shoulder now...laughing and making your own complementary jokes with William... Now quit that! Sam! Billie! I'm not joking!!

Rosenberg goes one more. Recalling Poe's The Purloined Letter, he says if you want to really hide something, put it where a seeker can't possibly miss it. With such intuitive guidance, Rosenberg returns to Sidis' title page of his Notes on the Collection of Transfers. There it was - Sidis' pseudonym we attempted to interpret in our review of Amy's The Prodigy: Frank Folupa! Rosenberg too goes through topomental pretzel twists to get Sidis' gist, covering ground we redundantly covered unaware of his three decades prior and copious efforts.

In full agreement, Amy arrived at Sam's conclusion too, having researched Sam's book for her own. Sam says Sidis is telling perspicacious readers, "I am a crazy and maniacal she wolf, a lewd prostitute, a humbug who performs nonsensical acts and then publishes results in fable form about streetcars." Apparently people saw Sidis as a wolf, and he used their crooked perceptions to get even 9.

It was inevitable, but Rosenberg makes yet another tie: Steppenwolf. Herman Hesse's Nobel prize-winning novel appeared in Germany two years after Sidis' Folupian prose was published in 1926. Steppenwolf's protagonist, Harry Haller is a dead ringer for William James Sidis! It is a book about breaking incorrigible will of one who defies conventional society's Static Quality in favor of nature's intrinsic Dynamic Quality. It is another novel, depicting self-hate as sheer egoism, about battles between conventional societies' truth over value and natural reality's value over truth. (One of our site visitors, Paul O'Donnell, corrected Rosenberg's attribution of a Nobel Prize to Hesse's Steppenwolf, and told us it should be Magister Ludi. Hesse's final work, The Glass Bead Game, AKA Magister Ludi which appeared in Europe in 1943 won a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946. Thanks Paul!)

Sam Rosenberg goes one final lap. He arranged his own version of Sidis' unending play of life. He sequenced all of Sidis' jokes chronologically and used them to restage a new Sidis' play titled, The Streetcar Named Paradise Lost. Sam's remaining 12 pages of chapter 3 are a rendition of Sidis' life's play.

Read it.

Thanks for reading this review, and mtty,



Note 1 - our coined plural of paradox Return

Note 2 - We tried to learn more about Rosenberg using our WWW search engines, but found nothing. E.g., fishing with "sidis masquerade" hooked only our Quantonics site and Lila Squad's It looks like those two may be all for now, without venturing into dark and moldy snail-paced labyrinths of remote and nonline libraries. Return

Note 3- Your reviewer wants to pursue this topic more extensively, but we will do it in a more suitable hyperlinked aside. Several of you ask often about learning ways to tap into what Boris calls reserve or complementary energy. In our opinion, USA's current public education system amounts mostly to an archaic intellectual straitjacket. Time for ample portions of DQ! Apparently, Boris began William's formal educational training at six months! Further, he intuited — for a child — learning 10 languages by age seven is little more effort — for a child — than learning one. Building a first generation of teachers who know and can teach 10 languages is our challenge. Ditto, mathematics and multi- and trans-disciplinarity. It's all part of Quantonics' perceived M3K problem. Return

Note 4 - This is a connection to Pirsig's views on celebrity - Pirsig felt much commonality of views with philosopher William James. Return

Note 5 - See our list of hounders in our review of The Prodigy, and recall Amy's and Rosenberg's observations about a trial judge who remarked The New York Times had a civic right to harass Sidis because he was a public figure. Return

Note 5.5 - Several of our readers have shown great interest in Sidis' apparent mnemonic skills as they relate to memory and intelligence. For fun and relaxation we recently read Thomas Harris' Hannibal, a sequel to his extraordinarily popular Silence of the Lambs. In Hannibal, Thomas describes Dr. Hannibal Lecter's "memory palace." We thought you might be interested in at least checking some places in Hannibal where Thomas writes about Lecter's incredible memory capacity and how he accomplishes it. See following pages in Hannibal: bottom of page 251- top of page 256, page 283, and on page 485 'Acknowledgments,' Thomas thanks both Frances A Yates who wrote The Art of Memory, and Jonathan D. Spence who wrote The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci. Both authors apparently helped Thomas with structuring of Dr. Hannibal Lecter's memory palace. Thought you might like to know. Return

Note 6 - Would make a terrific US president in 2000. Return

Note 7 - Another connection here: When we read Sidis' Appendix to one of his father's books, we found him expressing an apparently simplistic, SOM-objective view. Naïve at best. Was he miming stupidity there too? Why would he want to be vengeful toward his Father? Amy tells us that gradually, over time, William became cynical about both his Mother and Father, Mother first, then Father. We wonder, was Sidis a Neo sapien Sophist in a classical SOM-foundering world? Sam shows us unambiguously Sidis' sophisms, but fails to perceive them thus. We carry this theme forward in our very recent October 13, 1999 review of WJS' Appendix IV. Return

Note 8 - Schizophrenia is one treatment category classical psychoanalysts use to diagnose Sophists' disease of many truths. Careful reading of The Prodigy and some of Boris' works depict Boris as a very conservative classicist. Perhaps Billie feigned classicism despite his own intrinsic sophism to garner Boris' praise. As we read more about William James Sidis, we see a lonely Sophist fighting a global army of SOMites. (1Dec2000 rev - See our Stairways as Perceived by Our Quantum Stages for a strong affirmation of our heuristic.) Return

Note 9 - Another nexus emerses here with Pirsig's Phædrus. Society maltreated Phædrus and ex-cathedra SOM-objective pogromatic anthrotals erased his program. Belied: not a crazy wolf, not a rabid lycanthrope, but a tabula rasa lupine. Woof du Blanc. Return

To contact Quantonics write to or call:

Doug Renselle
Quantonics, Inc.
Suite 18 #368 1950 East Greyhound Pass
Carmel, INdiana 46033-7730

©Quantonics, Inc., 1999-2010 Rev. 7Dec2008  PDR — Created: 4Jun1999  PDR
(14Jun2000 rev - Correct Hesse's Nobel Prize attribution.)
(17Aug2000 rev - Repair typo.)
(1Dec2000 rev - Add recommended link to note 8.)
(31Mar2001 rev - Add anchor to paragraph on "...rolling William's IQ back...")
(15Dec2001 rev - Add top of page frame-breaker.)
(5Mar2002 rev - Add link to our Steppenwolf micro-review in RR.)
(1Aug2007 rev - Reformat. Add 'fable' link to subsequent work by Doug on Sidis vav Phædrus.)
(7Dec2008 rev - Replace some fonts with gifs. Reformat. Reset legacy markups.)