Sunday, May 06, 2007


At Least There's Lots of Room for Marginalia

Somehow this escaped my attention a couple weeks ago: Powell's is running a cheeky "Write the Epigraph" contest for Jim Crace's nonexistent book Useless America:

The "book" originated as a listing error at Amazon, but... well, apparently these things will take on a life of their with him, Crace explained last year in the Guardian:

I have in the past acquired a reputation for concocting non-existent writers and unwritten volumes. My first seven novels were flattered by sham epigraphs from invented works by counterfeit authors, including Pycletius, Emile Dell'Ova, and the "excavationst" Sir Harry Penn Butler. It always cheered me up when my books were badly received to learn that the scholarly critic was nevertheless more than familiar with the works of my bogus epigrapher.

The Toronto Star informed me that Pycletius was "the Greek historian and geographer", while the TLS, as you'd expect, considered his works to be "arcane and irksomely septimal". The Washington Post judged Dell'Ova to be "a sadly neglected aphorist" and the New York Review of Books swallowed "the real archaeologist, Sir Harry Penn Butler" hook, line and sinker. Even Frank Kermode (in this paper) fell for "Harry" (evidently believing that as a fellow knight he could abandon formality and drop the "Sir"). It was only after I succeeded in smuggling a solus entry about Pycletius into the Oxford Companion to English Literature that I decided critics were too easy game and that I should direct my mischief elsewhere.
Doubleday, for a laugh, is publishing some blank-page publicity copies of the... ahem, "book."

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