Eakins’s Final, Unfinished Work

It has long been rumored that Eakins, at the time of his disappearance, was just about to embark on his most ambitious project yet—a novel (or perhaps a memoir) that he called “The Mayor’s Tongue.” He had mentioned this project at several occasions throughout his career, often by means of veiled references. In a rare interview with Le Monde in 1966, Eakins mentioned writing “a massive book about the aspirations of utopia, involving linguistic theory and the private utopia that is my own life.” He did not give a title for the book in that interview, but did mention that the protagonist would be the mayor of his utopia, a “mad—even criminally insane—monomaniac.”

In The Darkness and the Dead, the writer Branson Rigor plots a novel called “The Mayor’s Tongue,” which he intends to be his crowning masterwork. At one point Rigor says that, in order to concentrate fully on the project, he will have to disappear from the world for many years. Many readers have speculated that Rigor was meant to be a stand-in for Eakins himself, and that Eakins’s disappearance in the Carso was the result of a deliberate decision to create for himself the space and time sufficient enough to write his own “Mayor’s Tongue.”

In both of Eakins’s memoirs—Gashes and The Man With Holes in His Cheeks—he refers to his autobiographical project as a trilogy. At the end of The Man With Holes in His Cheeks, he signs off, “To be continued—God Willing.” Many believe that “The Mayor’s Tongue” was to be the third and final book in the memoir trilogy.

In his final interview, for a profile published in Rolling Stone in 1970, he said that he would soon begin the book he “had been preparing [his] whole career to write.” The reporter asked him whether this was the book that his fans referred to as “The Mayor’s Tongue.” Eakins did not reply but, in the reporter’s description, laughed “giddily.” He hinted, furthermore, that he had already begun writing it. “There is a marvelous peace in not publishing,” said Eakins. “I say that as someone who has published prolifically ever since I was a teenager. It’s peaceful not to publish. Quiet. Publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy. I write just for myself and my own pleasure.”

We at Eakins Web support the theory that Eakins lives, in the Carso or elsewhere, and continues to write his magnum opus, “The Mayor’s Tongue,” to this day. The book will not come to light, we suspect, until his death. And what a happy consolation it will be on that tragic day to discover this greatest work of the greatest writer who ever lived.

—Canseco Nástinke