Sunday, March 26, 2006

"A year in..."

Tralee Pearce has a funny article at about the ascendancy of the non-fiction book structured around the idea of 365 days in the life of its author and/or the book's subject. (Link courtesy of ArtsJournal Publishing.)

I am not planning on writing a "year of reading" type book, I would think it would be completely unreadable, and I don't do anything else in which "year of" could possibly be amusing. But I do have a new project that I am yearning to write. (It is going to have to enter what is already a long queue, though. Too many ideas!)

Of course it is fatal to describe as-yet-unwritten projects, they never get written that way, but I think I am going to say it anyway and not worry about it. (The inverse of this rule is that whenever I say I won't be blogging for a few days, I always end up writing two or three more posts in the few hours after I've given a notice of hiatus. Watch and see.)

Several people recently have asked if I've thought about publishing some collection of these blog entries as a book, and my answer is a firm no. Nor do I want to write a whole collection of essays about books, other kinds of writing seem more pressing to me (academic stuff, fiction) and whatever move I make into essay-writing will be occasional rather than book-driven.

But I do want to write a lovely and hilarious novel, a novel that is now looking particularly amusing and attractive because it only exists in my imagination, that will be read by hardly anybody and will have to be published by a nice small press for no money because nobody will want to buy it, called "99 Novels" (a bow to one of my favorite strange books, Anthony Burgess's 99 Novels: The Best in English Since 1939).

It would not be formatted in the same way Burgess does it (he has a one-page entry for each book, given in chronological order; mine would be more like the way this blog works, with longer posts on some books and entries that cover four or five different books and so forth). The constraint would be that it would mention EXACTLY ninety-nine novels, no cheating; and that they would all be made up (i.e. they do not exist in the world; though some of them, I think, would be by authors who do exist).

This has been at the back of my mind as I've been reading Perec; I am interested in the way that formal constraints lead to interesting and surprising kinds of writing, and I want to see what would happen if I tried to write a book like that myself. It would be a good project for a summer when you were for some reason otherwise incapacitated--like an old-fashioned convalescence, that kind of thing, or depression that made it impossible to get real work done--you could do it in small daily chunks that would not be very stressful. Hmmm.... I must not do anything that slows down my progress towards a mid-September completion date for my book about breeding, but it would be very tempting to see if I could get started on this as well over the summer months....


  1. If you do manage to write this book? I would love to read it!

  2. Hi--Just wanted to say I recently read the chapter on _Pamela_ in your book on _Hypocrisy and the Politics of Politeness_... good stuff. Carry on!