The Logograph: A Bibliography of Imaginary Books

Description

236 pages
$27.95
ISBN 1-894031-91-1
DDC C813'.54

Publisher

Year

2004

Contributor

Reviewed by Joseph Jones

Joseph Jones is librarian emeritus at the University of British Columbia
Library and the author of Reference Sources for Canadian Literary
Studies.

Review

Thirty evocative conceits pursue matters connected with worlds of
possible reading. Abstract invention embroiders on notions like
identity, island, not-reading, gravity, ghost, monument, city, and
fossil. Esoteric episodes appeal to Atlantis, meso-American writing, and
the Tarot. Some passages amount to stories. Form becomes topic in
instances involving paper, marginalia, index, appendix, and colophon.
The book’s subtitle creates an expectation of a listing, an
expectation that dissolves in a series of scarcely comparable
situations.

Out of this mélange emerges, sometimes in fleeting fragments, a story
of an intriguing family from the narrator’s youth, and his place
alongside a son soon dead and a daughter lost in difficulties. At one
point the narrative descends to the prosaic recollection of an Alberta
summer job in a pizza joint, following an authorial self-inscription:
“At the back of my mind, as always, is the unwritten book, the one I
have been reading all my life.”

Literary clues to the book’s nature are given by the inclusion of an
entry for Alain-Fournier in the fragment of an index, and in an
underworld expedition’s discovery of the lost youngest member of the
party reading aloud from The Divine Comedy. Less subtle are a reference
to Proust and an epigraph attributed to Borges. Imagination is real,
adolescence must become the past, the beloved demands pursuit.

More precious than not is the writing, whose reading encompasses both
tedium and enchantment. At the lowest point the reader hears of
hackneyed “yellowed pages smelling of ancient dust.” A zenith is
reached with the magical account of playing the cards of the Thrave.

The physical volume adds much to the aura of the contents. Smythe-sewn
paper is cased in brown paper figured in a dull gold arabesque that
almost absorbs the lettering on the spine. A wrapper covers the casing,
and a paper slipcase covers the wrapper.

Citation

Wharton, Thomas., “The Logograph: A Bibliography of Imaginary Books,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 24, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/31985.