Saturday, 18 June 2016

Simon Turner - The Portable Perec

I dream I am in a second-hand bookshop (I often dream I am in second-hand bookshops), in this instance a beautifully overcrowded one full of library stacks and reading tables o’ertopped with ranter’s pamphlets and hardbound Victorian train timetables and antique maps of the Hebrides.  It’s a treasure trove, a booknerd’s Nirvana, but my eye doesn’t linger long on the majority of the merchandise, as something truly astonishing catches my eye: a black Penguin Classics edition the size of a Gutenberg Bible called, with crashingly obvious irony, The Portable Perec.  ‘Why have I never heard of this?’ I wonder, and make my way to the book, which is so enormous, it has a long oak reading table all to itself.  I open the book at random – though the word ‘book’ feels unequal to the task of describing this wood-pulp leviathan: ‘tome’ seems so much more felicitous – a task that would be a deal easier with two sets of arms instead of one, such is the sheer heft of the volume.   The contents are as marvellous as I could possibly have expected: copious footnotes (in columns, no less!), a thirty page index, illustrations from 16th century textbooks on natural history (they’re the best), and more newly discovered Pereciana than you could possibly imagine.  (Though I clearly imagined it.)  This is paradise; waking up will be harder than ever.       


oliver dixon said...

Funnily enough I came across a copy of Life A User's Guide in a charity shop last week - it had been placed in the Self-Help section, which has an Oulipan logic to it.
Great to see G&P back at last.

The Editors said...

Hi Oliver,

Thanks for the kind words: yes, it'd been fun resurrecting the old beast (though that makes the blog sound like some kind of Lovecraftian horror from beyond, which may ore may not be apposite).

On the topic of Oulipians being mis-shelved in charity shops, my local Oxfam had Philip Terry's novel tapestry (which I recommend if you've not read it: imagine a riposte to Calvino's Castle of Crossed Destinies, written in invented Middle-English, with the Norman invasion as its backdrop) wedged cheerfully in the history section. God knows what some unsuspected A level student would make of it, but it sure as hell wouldn't help them pass any exams.

Simon @ G&P