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Invisible Forms: Curiosities Of Literature Paperback – Oct 8 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Picador UK (Oct. 8 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330371045
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330371049
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 1.9 x 20.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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It took me ages to come up with a suitable title for this book, and in the end someone had to come to my rescue. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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By A Customer on July 7 2002
Format: Hardcover
In these postmodern times, a book about footnotes, indexes, acknowledgments, and so forth - was bound to be written. We should be grateful that such a book was written by Kevin Jackson. This book is hilarious, and should find an audience amongst graduate students, and more generally, bibliophiles. Jackson's book is a study (the better word is 'celebration') of 'paratexts', those matters which are an essential part of any book - footnotes, epigraphs, stage directions, indexes, and so forth.
One can only hint at the humour in this book.
For instance, in his chapter on pseudonyms, he discusses the reasons why Eric Blair decided to adopt the pseudonym "George Orwell", noting rather snidely in a footnote: "A cynic might add that 'Blair' is an unlikely name for a socialist."
Or when discussing the merits of the last words of James Joyce in his famous short story, "The Dead," Jackson comments: "Lovely prose, Jimmy, simply lovely; not a dry eye in the parlour the last time I read it out to the servants."
Or his chapter on marginalia, which is about those awful scribblings on books made by readers. Jackson adds his own marginalia to his work - the underlining of the word 'penis', with the comment "smut!"; or the bracketing of a paragraph with "come, now....", "typical", "Has this man never heard of Derrida?" and my favourite, "bamba, BAMBA!" Just the right touch of pomposity.
His chapter on indexes is classic. He quotes from Joe Queenan's book, If You're Talking to Me, Your Career Must be in Trouble:
Tesh, John
Likened to Adolf Hitler, 78
Obliviousness of, 76
Questionable goatee of, 78
This is funny, but at the same time it makes you realise how important indexes really are - and how much fun they can be.
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Format: Hardcover
You have to love books and the history of how and why they are the way they are organizationally and physically to enjoy this book. Subtitled "A Guide to Literary Curiosities," Kevin Jackson brings us deep into the world of book parts and how they came to be.
From introductions to prefaces, from pseudonyms to heteronyms, the author embellishes the book with the history that makes them what they are and uses many examples to illustrate his ideas. He describes the origins and uses of blurbs, dedications, epigraphs, and footnotes (which borrows heavily from Anthony Grafton's The Footnote: A Curious History).
Jackson looks at marginalia and stage directions, lectures and last words as used in books. Finally, he addresses the back matter of books: appendixes, bibliographies, and indexes.
This is excellent reading for the historically inclined and for bibliophiles.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Hilarious July 7 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In these postmodern times, a book about footnotes, indexes, acknowledgments, and so forth - was bound to be written. We should be grateful that such a book was written by Kevin Jackson. This book is hilarious, and should find an audience amongst graduate students, and more generally, bibliophiles. Jackson's book is a study (the better word is `celebration') of `paratexts', those matters which are an essential part of any book - footnotes, epigraphs, stage directions, indexes, and so forth.
One can only hint at the humour in this book.
For instance, in his chapter on pseudonyms, he discusses the reasons why Eric Blair decided to adopt the pseudonym "George Orwell", noting rather snidely in a footnote: "A cynic might add that `Blair' is an unlikely name for a socialist."
Or when discussing the merits of the last words of James Joyce in his famous short story, "The Dead," Jackson comments: "Lovely prose, Jimmy, simply lovely; not a dry eye in the parlour the last time I read it out to the servants."
Or his chapter on marginalia, which is about those awful scribblings on books made by readers. Jackson adds his own marginalia to his work - the underlining of the word `penis', with the comment "smut!"; or the bracketing of a paragraph with "come, now....", "typical", "Has this man never heard of Derrida?" and my favourite, "bamba, BAMBA!" Just the right touch of pomposity.
His chapter on indexes is classic. He quotes from Joe Queenan's book, If You're Talking to Me, Your Career Must be in Trouble:
Tesh, John
Likened to Adolf Hitler, 78
Obliviousness of, 76
Questionable goatee of, 78
This is funny, but at the same time it makes you realise how important indexes really are - and how much fun they can be. I have Queenan's book, but never even bothered to look at the index.
Sometimes, however, Jackson's trickery falls flat, like his chapter "Follies", which is devoted to literary experimentation. The beginning of each paragraph in this piece corresponds to a letter of the alphabet. I was only vaguely curious to see how one could begin a sentence with X and Z. For me, the form under which this particular essay was written detracted from what Jackson was saying (Actually, I felt that way about the chapter on marginalia a bit. The marginalia was so prominent - like all good marginalia! - that it was hard to concentrate on the actual text). Neither was his discussion on literary experimentation particularly interesting, and George Perec's famous book, written without the letter "e", is given more thought by Jackson's colleague, Gilbert Adair.
Still, overall, great...
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Esoteric, yet entertaining and informative Oct. 22 2001
By Larry S. Bonura - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
You have to love books and the history of how and why they are the way they are organizationally and physically to enjoy this book. Subtitled "A Guide to Literary Curiosities," Kevin Jackson brings us deep into the world of book parts and how they came to be.
From introductions to prefaces, from pseudonyms to heteronyms, the author embellishes the book with the history that makes them what they are and uses many examples to illustrate his ideas. He describes the origins and uses of blurbs, dedications, epigraphs, and footnotes (which borrows heavily from Anthony Grafton's The Footnote: A Curious History).
Jackson looks at marginalia and stage directions, lectures and last words as used in books. Finally, he addresses the back matter of books: appendixes, bibliographies, and indexes.
This is excellent reading for the historically inclined and for bibliophiles.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Curiosities of the Other in Literature Dec 24 2008
By James Henderson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
"Curiouser and curiouser", said Alice and that was my initial response to this unique book. Written by Kevin Jackson, a writer and traveler and somewhat of a mystery, Invisible Forms: A Guide to Literary Curiosities is a book about books. It is specifically about the 'other', the 'invisible' forms or parts of almost every book that are there "in plain sight"; ignored or assumed away when considering the book, but not by Kevin Jackson. He discusses dedications, titles, epigraphs, footnotes, prefaces, afterwords, indexes and even the imaginary: imaginary books and authors. Marginalia is not left out in this delightful compendium of useful and whimsical knowledge and trivia. The epigraphs for the book are worth considering:

There are books in which the footnotes, or the comments scrawled by some reader's hand in the margin, are more interesting than the text. The world is one of those books. (George Santayana, Realms of Being)

Some of the means I use are trivial - and some are quadrivial. (James Joyce, responding to accusations of triviality)

The contents of Invisible Forms exist in that realm somewhere between the trivial and the whole world. It is an interesting place, one that invites the reader in for a dip now and then. Watch out that you are not engulfed by the world of Invisible Forms.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Too much sugar and not enough plum for this fairy Jan. 7 2013
By Simon Barrett 'Il Penseroso' - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Unremitting jocularity can wear you down. The most dignified thing about these fatuous pages is the title. When I got to John Julius Norwich's favourite first lines (p131) I could feel myself coming over all Leavisite. To the barricades! The smugness is palpable. At least he credits us with recognising a little bit of Dante unaided (p80). For the rest? Middlemarch contains 86 epigraphs? Tfoo! If this makes me 'some dopey critic' (p112 footnote), well, tough
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Good Oct. 5 2008
By Cosmoetica - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I'll give a brief chronological fingering through the book, & then opine a bit. Each chapter is a winner- discussing both the history of & the philosophical underpinnings of the form it tackles- but some stand out especially. The chapter on titles has a nice riff on what makes a title work. It goes on to inform us that War And Peace was originally 1825, A Farewell To Arms was (among others) Love Is Hunger, East Of Eden was The Salinas Valley, Gone With The Wind was (among others) Pansy, & Paradise Lost was Adam Unparadized. It also has a nice riff using Henry James' novel's titles to show how fashion also affects titling. He also debunks the idea that great titles fall from the heavens like manna. A point worth probing would be how many writers spend so much effort on a title while the book is really bad. The pseudonyms chapter lets us know Anthony Burgess's real name is John Wilson- his nom de plume is made of his 2 middle names, as well as a host of other real names for famed authors. The heteronyms chapter is all about the psychotic Fernando Pessoa. The marginalia section comes replete with faux examples of that form. The blurb section lets us know that those detestable acts of fellatio were once merely the authors' own descriptions of themselves. KJ's editor apparently encouraged him to delete some of the blurbs he's culled to show as examples of how this form is so vile. A minor quibble is that KJ does not delve into the modern version of that form- the literary rimjobs that adorn many a backcover. The epigraphs section tackles Edgar Allan Poe's & T.S. Eliot's obsession with the form....Suffice to say that this is a fine little book- & 1 of the few works that can be read in multiple modes- as a reference book it is on target. Yet, it also reads well as a humorous text, even if 1 is not familiar with the authors or the works referenced within. Even more, it also serves well as a primer on the art to the unnoticed little aspects of writing. I hope that 1 day KJ will return to the book, greatly expand it, & give many more examples of these forms: how they are used, who used them well, who did not, & how those choices impacted the sundry works.
Also, a more scholarly approach might be needed, above & beyond mere expansion. While KJ's little book is a light-hearted jaunt through the subject matter, there really is alot to be gleaned from a more sober & detailed study of these forms. The analyses of such might help to quantify just what it is that makes some writers. & some works, more memorable than others. At least it's a place to start. & in doing so, KJ need not get so weighted down with pretensions that he ends up another Isaac D'Israeli- whose rise & fall he charts, due to his 19th Century Curiosities Of Literature, a sort of precursor to KJ's book- whose mania is recounted in the next century's take on such matters. All he need do is what he did- & do it some more. I just realized- for the 1st time in my adult recall I am actually advocating that a book be longer. Not bloated- just more of the good stuff, lest his fine book itself become invisible on some used bookstore's shelves.


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