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/Other Literature: Ibid: A Life by Mark Dunn Camilla Send a noteboard - 17/09/2009 08:51:08 PM
The idea of a book consisting entirely of footnotes may sound pretentious. And it may sound like it would, unavoidably, result in tedium. That would be wrong.

I bought Mark Dunn's Ibid: A Life long ago, after Roh told me it was something I should read; then I forgot about it. I confess I doubted a little. And I really like footnotes. That is where all the fun stuff is, even when you are supposed to be reading what is really quite interesting in and of itself. And footnotes in fiction is generally the scene of the most deliciously absurd absurdities (although that might be down to the type of fiction I read).

In theory I should therefore have devoured this book the moment it arrived in my mailbox. But, a tiny voice in the corner of my brain, usually more concerned with not talking to strangers or taking candy from unknown men, said: what about the possibility of too much of a good thing? Aren't footnotes primarily charming because they are only incidental, and because you can choose to disregard them; and doesn't this project really sound like hard work, as they are really expecting you to reconstruct a man's life from the allusions in the footnotes to a biography that, in this case, is not there?

Isn't it, in short, an interesting idea, intellectually, and a nice experiment, literarily, but possibly not the world's most relaxing entertainment? Sometimes, occasionally, I am a little prejudiced.

At any rate, I picked up this book (it had been giving me accusatory glances from the bookshelf). And I read it at a time when I was anything but relaxed and full of energy, ready for intellectual labour -- I was too tired and worn out to do any proper work. And this book was lovely.

The beginning sets the tone of it: it consists in an exchange of letters between the author and his publisher, describing how the biography itself, which, after an accident with a paper shredder, only exists in one version, is destroyed in a bathing accident. And why, therefore, all that is available for publication are the footnotes, which were not yet ready when the accident happened.

And the biography about the three-legged man who began his career as a circus attraction before making it big in the male deodorant industry, rises effortlessly from the pages without requiring any extraordinary mental efforts of the reader. A number of the footnotes are longish, allowing them to tell free-standing anecdotes, and several of the shorter function as in-jokes referencing earlier anecdotes or established facts. There is also a great deal of more or less polite disagreement with fictional academics and earlier experts in the field. Sometimes (or, rather, usually) perfectly outrageous. I laughed. Rather a lot. Out loud.
structured procrastinator
This message last edited by Camilla on 17/09/2009 at 09:05:44 PM
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/Other Literature: Ibid: A Life by Mark Dunn - 17/09/2009 08:51:08 PM 5084 Views
She told me to read it too... I haven't yet. Thank you for the review. *NM* - 17/09/2009 09:00:51 PM 807 Views
You really should pick it up - 17/09/2009 09:03:26 PM 1280 Views
Another book added to the pile... ~sigh~ - 18/09/2009 03:28:00 AM 1254 Views
Re: Another book added to the pile... ~sigh~ - 18/09/2009 08:55:04 AM 1303 Views

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