Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Dodecahedron, in brief

It's been months since I read The Dodecahedron, or A Frame for Frames: A Novel of Sorts, by Paul Glennon. I've started writing about it a number of times, but I've had a heck of a time of it (obviously). However, seeing as it's been nominated for a Governor General's award for fiction, I feel compelled now to tell you how awesome it is.

Most years I'd be calling this book "the best book I've read this year," certainly the most interesting and most ambitious. It just so happens that I read it this spring, sandwiched between Eliot's Middlemarch and Pamuk's Snow, and it's a little small by comparison. But still rather beautiful.

I have a sick little girl on my hands today, so you'll have to check back later for more coherent thoughts and links, to see what I've made of my months'-old notes. In the meantime, I give you an excerpt:

I chose the second book, because it looked difficult and father always told me to never put off doing what's difficult. Its cover is soft brown suede and it doesn't have a title anywhere. It is not a regular book, set and printed with even letters. It looks hand-written, but very neatly with thick black ink, and there were lots of drawings. The author doesn't even write out his whole name, just his initials, A.T. and the words vere adeptus which I know means 'very clever'. I suppose A.T. is very clever because I don't really understand anything in his book. Sometimes I think that it is about the planets, because it talks about Mercury and Venus and Mars and Jupiter, but these are also the names of the old gods and sometimes it does sound like the book is talking about people. The pictures don't even help. There are just lots of circles with arrows and lines. Sometimes I skip ahead to other sections. There are four sections, and they are called 'Panacea', 'The Philosopher's Stone', 'Alkahest' and 'The Elixir of Life'. These don't make me think of planets or old mythology. I must work harder at understanding this tonight.

It has taken many hours in the library with the funny brown book, but I think I understand something about it now, not all of it, just a little bit. I stayed up late in the library and reread the sections that were especially mysterious. It came to me in my sleep. I dreamed that all the little diagrams in the book came to life. Rows of circles moved across the page towards other circles, or triangles or whatever other shapes, and then they fought. When one side won, they swallowed up the other shapes and changed their own shape just a little, like when a king conquers a country and adds that country's coat of arms to his own. When I woke up I knew that the diagrams were battle maps, and then I looked through for the names of generals and kings. I found lots of people called Magus, which means great, which is a thing a lot of kings have after their names, and there is somebody called Bombastus, who seems to be a great general, so that must be it. It is a book about a great war.

The brown book gave me a new idea about my father's mission. I don't know if these generals are from the coutries here in the known world or from the land beyond the wetern sea. Maybe there is going to be a war about this land. Maybe we are going to be invaded. I don't know who is fighting whom, but I know that my father is on the good side. Maybe he is a spy working for the good army and we live in a country ruled by an evil tyrant or usurper. This wouldn't surprise me at all, now that I have see the captain and his two guards.

I didn't eat this book right away. There is something about it that makes me not want to destroy it. Mabye it is because it is written by hand. It might be the only copy of the book in the world. I can imagine a person writing it out. It must have take a very long time to do. I feel awful about destroying it, even thought I know that it isn't truly gone as long as I eat the words rather than burning them, but it is still all very mysterious, these symbols and king's names. You shouldn't eat a book until you really understand it. I have put this book back in the locked cabinet. If I have to, I will eat it last.


12 reasons to read The Dodecahedron:
1. Support Canadian small press.
2. It's as much a puzzle as it is book (yes, that's a good thing).
3. One word: bibliophagia.
4. Vatican conspiracies.
5. Messages in bottles.
6. Polygamists.
7. Genies.
8. Golem myths.
9. Electronic plot device.
10. A scriptorium (on an island in the middle of nowhere).
11. The paper quality is thick, creamy, lightly rippled — good enough to eat.
12. You can read it more than once and hear it tell a different story each time.
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