Book Review: Devilry at the Printer's ; Sean French Annotates the Many Pleasures of a Book That Explores All the Bits of Books We Usually Take as Read; Invisible Forms by Kevin Jackson Picador, Pounds 9.99, 310pp
French, Sean, The Independent (London, England)
THE FIRST reaction of many people in the literary world on first picking up Invisible Forms will be a muffled curse. It's such a good, simple idea, carried out with such aplomb, yet nobody thought of it before. The bastard! What Kevin Jackson has done in this "guide to literary curiosities" is to examine virtually everything about books except for the main body of the text. He discusses titles, dedications, indexes, epigraphs, introductions, bibliographies. Some of these parts mimic the subject, and so more than half of his chapter on footnotes is itself in the form of footnotes. His chapter on marginalia is accompanied by crudely sardonic scrawled comments in the margin. His chapter on lectures is in the form of a lecture.
The book is crammed with wonderful oddities and shrewd observations; but the larger point is that there is no such thing as a neutral literary apparatus, invisibly supporting the text. Every bit of a book has its own complicated meanings and pleasures and, as Jackson repeatedly shows, in literature the scenery has a way of coming to the centre of the stage. The comments that William Blake or Samuel Taylor Coleridge scrawled in the margins of books they read have become significant literary texts. In collected editions, their "marginalia" have become the texts, and the texts they commented on have been relegated to the edge. A E Housman's notes in his highly technical editions of Latin poets are so funny and intelligent that they have now been lifted out of context and reprinted in paperback editions of Housman's prose. There was at one time a plan to publish the many anonymous - and reputedly brilliant - blurbs that T S Eliot wrote for dustjackets while working at Faber. It only foundered because no record had been …
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Publication information: Article title: Book Review: Devilry at the Printer's ; Sean French Annotates the Many Pleasures of a Book That Explores All the Bits of Books We Usually Take as Read; Invisible Forms by Kevin Jackson Picador, Pounds 9.99, 310pp. Contributors: French, Sean - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: October 3, 1999. Page number: 9. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.