Sunday, July 01, 2007

Reader's Diary #262- Paul Glennon: The Dodecahedron (up to "The Plot to Hide America")

Canada Day. I thought at first I'd post a poem about Canada. Then I thought maybe I'd do a little poll about favourite Canadian books. Or maybe a piece on Canada's role in the world's literary scene. In the end I decided on none of the above. The latter two topics have been done a lot (here and on other blogs) lately and to be honest, I spent the day enjoying the country, not looking for a poem.

And what a day: 15 degrees and sunny in Iqaluit! Hey, this might be the best we get all year. We watched a parade go by the house,

went to Sylvia Grinnell (a territorial park) for a Filipino potluck (there's a large population of Filipino people here and fortunately for us, we're friends with some of them), spent the day exploring some beautiful water falls and scenery,
and then went to the parking lot of the elementary school where they were having a concert with local Inuit acts and a Spanish ensemble from Toronto. Doesn't get more Canadian than this, does it?

Anyway, as I've said, the theme almost got away from the post entirely. Fortunately, the book I just started is Canadian, so at least I can do that much. The Dodecahedron (or A Frame For Frames) by Paul Glennon, was a finalist for the Governor General's award last year, yet surprisingly I've heard very little about it. Maybe I'm just out of the loop. My theory is that the title is a little too intimidating. I happened to be looking over the GG webpage when I read the description of it- had I not done that, I probably would have avoided it as well.

However, the concept of the book was too much to pass up. It's comprised of twelve narratives, twelve narrators, and most intriguing, twelve genres. I'm constantly trying to keep myself well-rounded with my reading habits, but asides from novels and poetry, I know I fall short. Such a book should be perfect for me.

Apparently this book is constructed on Oulipian principles; a term I first came across while reading Christian Bok's Eunoia. The OuLiPo is a group of authors who write under self-imposed constraints, a concept that appeals to me immensely. The only other book I've read that followed such principles was Bok's (though not an official OuLiPo member, his Eunioa was a collection of poems each comprised of words only of a single vowel). I've also added George Perec's A Void to my TBR pile now that I see it's been translated into English- that book was written without the letter "e" so how a translation was possible is beyond me. I'm often torn between form poetry and free verse. On the one hand, I think art should be free expression. On the other hand, I like that people can still create within rules, sometimes even because of rules. The OuLiPo solve this dilemma. Artists are still forced to comply, but to rules of their own design. It's a brilliant idea. That's not to say everyone is able to pull it off, but the concept itself is fantastic.

Asides from using twelve different genres, there are other constraints placed on Dodecahedron. The title wasn't chosen simply because there are twelve stories. Apparently, each story can be perceived as a face of a dodecahedron, and just as each face has five points in common with other faces, each story refers to (or is referred by) five adjacent stories. It gets a little tricky to hear how Glennon decides how "adjacent" is decided, but in any case, the ambition of the book alone has sold me on it. So far.

I remember hearing fans of Stanley Park saying they enjoyed it for its ambition. I agreed that Timothy Taylor certainly took a lot of risks. However, I didn't agree that they paid off. I thought he threw in far too many themes and too many plots and in the end it felt like an unfinished mess. Will Glennon's book live up to the vision? For me, that remains to be seen. I've only read the first story so far, and if the rest are as good, I'm in for a real treat. The first story was intriguing and slightly bizarre (there's a boy who literally eats books), and the references to other works of fiction keep the idea of "links" fresh in the mind, while diffusing any accusations that he was trying to sneak plagiarism by the reader (the last story, interestingly, is called "Plagiarism").

I really hope this turns out as fun as I want it (and expect it) to be!


Kelly said...

Happy Canada Day!

Stephanie said...

Wow. What a post! First of all Happy Canada day to you!! Since I can't convert F to C anymore, I have no idea how warm it is for you!! But it still sounds COLD to me!

That book sounds facinating!! I haev never heard of it, nor have I heard of OuLiPo. I guess I'm WAY out of the loop!

Thanks for sharing!

John Mutford said...

MyUtopia, Thanks! It is a wonderful country. Speaking of great countries, yours is having its special day soon too. Any plans?

Stephanie, Thanks. It's 59 F.

Sam said...

Beautiful photos, John. I can't even begin to imagine living in such a place as that. I've been in big cities since I escaped my hometown at 18 years old and I wonder if I'd survive where you are. :-)

John Mutford said...

Sam, I think you'd do just fine here. The "city" isn't all cold weather and rugged terrain. We've got a bookclub, a library, highspeed internet, and a movie theatre, what else do you need? ;)

Anonymous said...

Beautiful photos! The book sounds quite interesting. I'll be waiting to hear your final assessment.

Anonymous said...

I started reading Road for Canada by Dan Francis this weekend. It's the history of the Trans-Canada Highway and it's impact on Canada.

I wasn't expecting a dry read, but I also wasn't expecting it to be so interesting.

Happy Canada Day!

John Mutford said...

Stefanie, Thanks. I'm four stories in and so far, so good. More later.

Monique, I'll have to check that out for sure. Sounds like something Pierre Berton would do. Sometimes the oddest topics make the most fascinating reads. Ever read Salt by Mark Kurlansky?