Tuesday, January 25, 2011

30. Books that aren’t } and books that do.

After Christmas John Cotter asked me if I’d heard of Lance Olsen and I thought THAT name rings a bell but why say so? I said, “I’m not sure,” so John told me all about Olsen’s Calendar of Regrets (SEE John’s review at OLM). What I wish I’d said when John asked if I’d heard of Lance Olsen was, Uh, yeah. I’m in a book with Lance Olsen.

That is, ahem, The Official Catalog of the Library of Potential Literature, edited by Ben Segal and Erinrose Mager.

Ben and Erinrose pitched it so: “The Catalog is to consist of a series of blurbs/short descriptions of books that do not exist. In order to compile that Catalog, we have asked many of the writers, theorists, and text-makers we most admire to imagine that they’ve just read the most amazing book they’ve ever encountered and then write a brief blurb about the imagined text.”

An advanced e-copy was sent to me so I might splendor on its grass before the actual encounter (the Catalog will be at the AWP conference). I’ve been doing. Let me mention a few I especially liked. Matt Bell’s “The Big Book of Infinitely Possible Timetables,” which sounds like the Catalog’s cousin and is similarly interested in the impossible, specifically, the wish to be in all of our possible lives. There are a number of impossible books described—my contribution is such a one; the Catalog lends itself to the improbable. Such as “The Slow Book,” by Shelly Jackson, which imagines a book that is written over the course of centuries (her blurb reminded me of John Cage’s “ORGAN2/ASLSP,” currently being performed as slowly as possible—for 639 years—in the church of St. Burchardi in Halberstadt), or Ben Mirov’s “Inadequate Pillow,” about a book that’s literally all things and nothing. Then there are books more possible. Mallory Rice’s “Hugging in the Kitchen” describes a novel made of the moments after the protagonist cries. I noticed frequent furniture moving in these blurbs. There are a few the-book-as-me blurbs, including Diane Williams’. There’s a lot of language that can’t be read. Lots of incredible cities, too, like the beautiful “Haven” by Evelyn Hampton I’m sure other patterns will becomes apparent to careful readers.

The blurb most unlike all the others: “The Gardens of Krakov” by Brian Reed. I like it most of all the blurbs.

By now you’re suitably interested.

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