Saturday, July 25, 2009

Invisible Library in the NYT

In this weekend's New York Times Book Review, I have an essay ("Titles Within a Tale") about the invisible library. Here's a little bit from the middle—I'm including it here mostly because Crome Yellow was a recent discovery for me, and it's amazingly fresh and funny. (There's a great bit where Barbecue-Smith advises the young protagonist on how to become a more productive writer...I should've copied it down.) Also because it was Raymond Chandler's birthday two days ago.

Aldous Huxley’s very funny first novel, “Crome Yellow” (1921), features not just a varied smattering of invisible books and books-in-progress (Mr. Barbecue-Smith’s “Pipe-Lines to the Infinite,” Henry Wimbush’s history of the town of Crome), but what might be called second-degree invisibles: a bookcase of pageless spines — 10 volumes of “Thom’s Works and Wanderings,” seven of “Tales of Knockespotch” — camouflaging a secret door. These books are fake even in the fictional world where they sprout.

In Raymond Chandler’s posthumously published notebooks, we find 36 unused titles, from “The Man With the Shredded Ear” to “The Black-Eyed Blonde,” as well as reference to Aaron Klopstein, author of such books as “Cat Hairs in the Custard” and “Twenty Inches of Monkey” (a title derived from a catalog listing monkeys for vivisection at a dollar per inch). For all their loopy humor, such jeux d’esprit also suggest a haunting: all the books a writer will never get the time to write.

UPDATE (8/9): Some letters in the NYTBR!

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In other Invisible Library news:

• My co-librarian Levi (with the help of Rocketlass) has picked up the domain name We hope to have a slightly snazzier version of the I.L. up soon, or at least one that doesn't make it seem that we only ever posted during one day in 2007.

• As reported on Disambiguation, the Invisible Library exhibit in London had a musical component on July 8. It looks like a mob scene!

Here's what NME (!) had to say:

Artists including Carl Barat, Kid Harpoon and The Bluetones' Mark Morriss are set to play a one-off free show in a London art gallery this Wednesday (July 8).

The acts, along with Babyshambles' Drew McConnell, play the Pages In Plectrums night at the Tenderpixel Gallery in London's Cecil Court.

Curated by Kieran Leonard (who will also play), the night is hosted by literary journal Real Fits and the Ink Illustration collective. The free gig starts at 6pm (BST), with the acts performing tracks from their own back catalogues that have been particularly influenced by literature.

In addition to the music, the show also features 40 illustrations and short stories from imaginary books that have only ever been referenced in other literature before now.

Illustration by Stephen Doyle and Drew Heffron for NYT

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