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Thursday, April 7, 2011

100 Books: The Official Catalog of the Library of Potential Literature

I must say, I'm sort of behind on this 100 Books thing. I have several books going at once and that may be slowing me down. I have some tricks up my sleeve to finish strong. For instance, I plan to read closely related books in tandem. One cool thing about reading this way is that one book can very often lead to another in surprising ways. For instance, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance--which I'm still reading and is overdue from the Montgomery County Public Library--led me to revisit a slim Buddhist book called True Love. There are some other books I plan to revisit and visit based on ideas in the books I'm reading. This can and does happen in my regular reading life, but there's something about the speed and immediacy of this 100 Books project that leads one book into another as opposed to reading one book in isolation and picking up another in virtual isolation. 

Also, I sort of anticipated that during the school year, I'd be much delayed. When the summer comes, it's on. My biggest disappointment/setback is that I didn't take as much advantage of spring break as I could have. 

There are a few that I have finished that I haven't posted about yet, so expect to see those soon.

So I finished The Official Library Catalog of Potential Literature a while ago, but I'm still thinking about some of the texts. The book is an inventive sort of anthology in which each story or text is in the form of catalog or jacket copy for books that don't exist. 

The texts vary widely in quality. The worst are short and flip, Teresa Carmody's "Literal: A Novel" reads in its entirety: "Surprisingly true to life!" Ha Ha, clever. The best of them, though, take time to invent a world. They do what jacket copy is supposed to do, make the reader wish the book was in his or her hands. But in this instance, I can't order, for example "Now They Turn Left by Hank Reckon." This piece, which is Mike Young's contribution to the anthology, describes a book in which a stock car driver dies during the last lap "and is replaced--in spirit, body and full Victorian get-up--by Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron and the visionary of computer programming." The book, Young tells us, is "Told via radio transcript, news ticker, and the eyewitness new media (blogs, Twitter, Facebook status updates) of souls touched along her way, Now They Turn Left is John Dos Passos meets the Coen Brothers."

It actually sounds like the book this age needs. I wish halfway through he decided to actually write the novel. And that was my frustration with it. The best of them had me retreating into my imagination instead of to Amazon to order up the books, which is not a bad place to be.    

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