There was a minor avalanche here last weekend. I removed a book from its tower, which reacted by toppling unstoppably against its neighbour, and so on, with results that need hardly be described at length. Luckily there were no casualties: no toes were crushed or bodies buried beneath the tumbling piles, and the books suffered no broken spines or other lasting damage, apart from a torn cover getting torn a little more.
I took the hint and arranged them more stably than before. (And yes, I need a new bookshelf, or a dozen.)
The incident prompted me to carry out a modest plan that had just taken seed. Shortly beforehand I had come across Nina Katchadourian’s Sorted Books project. Although I was unable to pick a favourite, I immediately knew it was something I had to try. The tangling of titles, the limitless possibilities of ‘found form’ and cut-up wordplay — as a game it was irresistible. I took photos of a few, and have written them as mini-poems for ease of reading and to see how they appear in verse:
How it is
How it is, the way that I went
Into the wild ancient world
Where the wasteland ends.
Chew on this moondust –
Good enough to eat.
Soft toys faking it,
Passing for human;
A peculiar people.
The man in the high castle
In the forest this side of paradise
Dreams on growth and form
In the season of the daisies.
Man’s search for meaning in the Freud archives —
How late it was,
Genius shifts the moment of truth
From the inside.
Madmen fish for Friday lamb
Five miles from outer hope.
What is history?
What is history?
A liar’s autobiography,
The riddle of the sands,
Tales of power — horror stories —
The wrath of nations, cannibals and kings,
Mighty heroes killing for culture
Burning in water drowning in flame,
Other lives, unfinished tales,
Stupid white men amusing ourselves to death.
I also put together two long and cynical ones about history and Ireland, but I’ll spare you those for now.* If anyone cares to join in the fun, please let me know in a comment, through a link to this post, or by email. Thank you to Nina Katchadourian and to the featured authors and editors:
Samuel Beckett, Robert Lloyd Praeger, Jon Krakauer, Betty Radice, and Theodore Roszak (How it is); Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson, Andrew Smith, and Maureen Tatlow (Moondust); Phyllis Chappell, Digby Anderson and Peter Mullen, Jody Scott, and Hugh Leonard (Faking it); Philip K. Dick, Edna O’Brien, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Carl Jung, D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, and Tom Phelan (Castle dreams); Viktor Frankl, Janet Malcolm, and James Kelman (How late); James Gleick, Adam Thorpe, Ladislaus Boros, Tony Flannery, Roy Porter, Frank O’Connor, Bernard Mac Laverty, and Nicola Barker (Inside outer); E.H. Carr, Graham Chapman, Erskine Childers, Carlos Castaneda, Herbert van Thal, William Pfaff, Marvin Harris, David Kerekes and David Slater, Charles Bukowski, Peter Bagge, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jorge Luis Borges, David Lodge, Michael Moore, and Neil Postman (What is history?).
* I changed my mind, and have edited the post to include an abridged version of What is history?
The Outer Hoard: Bookmash!
zompist bboard members: Bookmash game
Terminologia etc.: Poesie del dorso
Chris Galvin: Book Spine Poetry
Twitter hashtag: #bookmash.
Further examples are linked from subsequent bookmash posts.