RECOMMENDED READING

These books were not mentioned in The Believer until just now. They are awesome nonetheless.

Edison’s Eve: The Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life
by Gaby Wood (Anchor Books)
Thrilling, poetic, and anecdotally rich historical account of the human desire to create artificial versions of itself. For example: Renaissance man Paracelsus believed that human semen, locked in an airtight jar and buried in horse manure for forty days, then “magnetized” and kept at the temperature of a mare’s womb and fed human blood for forty weeks, would result in a fully formed human.

The Grasshopper King
by Jordan Ellenberg (Coffee House Press)
Zany campus satire about a university with a lame basketball program whose only residual claim to fame is its Gravinics Department, dedicated to the study of an obscure European country’s only notable export—the possibly untalented, possibly world-saving poet, Henderson. Speedy, smart, and winsome meditations on immortality and obscurity.

The Case of the Persevering Maltese
by Harry Mathews (Dalkey Archive)
This collected non-fiction by America’s only Oulipian contains discussions of the famed Oulipo group’s techniques (based on predetermined word patterns and complex musical forms) as well as essays on Italo Calvino, Joseph McElroy, and Georges Perec (who wrote A Void, an entire novel without the letter “e”).

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SEPTEMBER 2003
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