Monday, April 22, 2013

Taking the whole spine to write the title

I came home from the bookshop
yesterday with Miss Madison's
thrillingly learned Vegetable
Literacy and Anne Applebaum's
decidedly undelectable Gulag,
having somehow eluded the po-
etry section, entirely. There
had been no known object to
this foray but a purchase of
viticulture's finest period-
ical, whose latest issue had
not yet arrived; but the new
Madison hadn't been expected
and I blamed myself for Anne
Applebaum, whom I encounter-
ed in History, Europe, while
hoping to make it as far as
Spain, where I did ultimate-
ly find Mr Beevor's reliable
study of the civil war which
I'd not revisited since col-
lege (Borkenau, Brenan, Fra-
ser, and naturally, Orwell).

But I stray. Probably every-
one remembers John Hersey's
interesting nightmare novel
from 1974, out of Kafka and 
Malthus, My Petition for 
More Space, on appealing to
the bureaucratic gods for a
little more room, which the
publishers of Gulag seem to
have found it timely to a-
ward to Applebaum's title,
leaving no square cm of her
spine unstamped with that
grisly acronym of roughly,
State Camp Administration.
Lucky for her, Denisovich
had already been taken, or
she'd yet be at her lathe.

Now, this is said to be a
worthwhile frame of refer-
ence for the late Soviet
project in the productiv-
ity of enforcement; and no
connoisseur of the crimes
of its era can do without
it. But I can't say enough
for the printers' offense
against the good order of
one's library, by allocat-
ing 1.25" of font height,
and 0.5 of width, to each
and every letter of this
five-figure neologism set
within a spine of refrig-
erator white.

Who could reasonably ob-
ject, do you suppose, to
discerning the thoughtful
face of Alexander Pope at
twelve paces from a shelf
-- laid into Yale's spine
for his collected poetry?
You could say, a library
might do worse in a lode-
star for true north. But
this extremity of noise,
for a monstrosity upon a
monstrosity, only leaves
a library feeling like a
chamber of horrors.

Someone will tell us all,
one day, why Steve Pincus'
enormous white 1688, also
from Yale, doesn't manage
to roil the metabolism of
assimilating information,
with the gasp which must
always greet Anne Apple-
baum's embonpoint of text.
She is a graduate of Yale,
summa cum laude at that;
but, alas, her publisher
is Anchor, who must still
be striving to vindicate
their name. Possibly they
could consult J. Press on
discretion, at least with
projects from New Haven.


  1. This is one of the most attractive image I've seen for a while....
    Attractive and aestethique at the same time.
    My English is too poor to understand all of your writing, but get the sense of it.
    Warmest greetings from the Périgord,

    P.S - Thanks a lot for following my blog!! and your comments. Just getting my head around to comment on your blog/posts....will get through....but have a bit of a struggle with my intellect. Hope that you know what I mean.
    Nevertheless - keep writing! I'll keep learning!

  2. Ah - forgotten to mention that the tenderness which is expressed in the image has attracted me most.

    1. Dear Karin, I cannot suppose that any of us hears often enough from the Périgord, whence your page is essential in every sense of the term, so I thank you especially for these direct infusions of warmth. Here, I am fortunate to have no such cultural or gastronomic provenance to live up to (as they say), and I am allowed to get by with images off the rack, and writing which values equally our renown for signifying nothing; but I share your impressions of this picture. Thank you for putting them into words.