Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Logogryph

Thomas Wharton begins The Logogryph: A Bibliography of Imaginary Books with this passage:

In the early years of printing, books were often shipped and sold unbound. The buyer would either bind them later, which was expensive, or leave the pages loose. In this way a reader could add other material, remove leaves or arrange them in any order.

The book, a collection of highly original fictions, reads as if it could have been constructed in this manner. It contains pieces written in the guise of myths, folktales, short stories, poetic fragments, philosophical musings, and academic treatises. There is a whole history of books and of reading to be found within its pages.

In one piece a character falls out of his story and has to make his way on the outside. In another, two bibliophiles are driven mad by one another’s margin notes. In a third, a novel lives up to its jacket copy (“It will live in your imagination”), taking up residence in the reader’s head and thwarting all attempts at eviction. A fourth takes the form of an essay on the contemporary novelists of Atlantis describing their struggle with Atlantean identity in the shadow of influential representations of their island by British authors. A fifth depicts books as architectural features dotting the landscape:

Remains of other novels are few and far between, for obvious reasons. If the pages are not continually consulted, time and tide over a period of years erodes punctuation, and eventually metaphor. With long neglect of readership, the lower regions of the novel become flooded with brackish water, and oblivion eventually undermines the whole structure.

Of course, unlike the ancient books described in the opening passage quoted above, The Logogryph has been bound, and beautifully so. Gaspereau Press makes lovely books, and this one is no exception. But the contents of The Logogryph are linked by more than shared themes and a physical binding. An ongoing story of a family, appropriately named the Weavers, and a young would-be writer who is profoundly influenced by his association with them, threads through the text and ultimately provides it with a surprising unity.

The Logogryph is a brilliant book. I suspect it will stay with me a while, and unlike the book which so abused the hospitality of its reader in Wharton's tale, it will be a most welcome guest.

1 comment:

eirwenes said...

Oh, see, sometimes reading your blog costs me money! Actually, it's not listed at either Amazon US or Amazon UK. I'll go to the publisher tomorrow. I'm always looking for books that leave me feeling utterly refreshed. Calvino's If On A Winter's Night a Traveler, and Puig's Eternal Curse on the Reader of These Pages come to mind. This one is going to be wonderful to read, I can tell.