Friday May 7th, 2010

The Different Varieties of Books That Don’t Exist

Ben Segal and Erinrose Mager are soliciting submissions for a new project, The Official Catalog of the Library of Potential Literature. The idea is to write a blurb or short description of a book that doesn’t exist. More details below (and full details here). Please don’t confuse this project with the excellent Invisible Library, maintained by Levi Stahl and Ed Park, which catalogs “books that exist only between the covers of other books — as descriptions, occasionally as brief excerpts, often simply as titles.” All clear?

We are very excited to announce the coming existence of The Official Catalog of the Library of Potential Literature. The Catalog is to consist of a series of blurbs/short descriptions of books that do not exist. In order to compile that Catalog, we have asked many of the writers, theorists, and text-makers we most admire to imagine that they’ve just read the most amazing book they’ve ever encountered and then write a brief blurb about the imagined text.

As many of you know, The phrase ‘potential literature’ is highly associated with the Oulipo group. We choose to use the phrase here because, as the Oulipo says, their project, properly, is to conceptualize forms and potential works: not necessarily to bring them into being. Literature is potential literature when it is that shimmering non-work of total possibility. Though Official only by way of titular hyperbole (itself, like the blurbs contained within, a kind of unfulfilled and unfulfillable promise), the Catalog will evoke a library of wonderful–maybe even impossible–books; books that, in spite or even because of their non-existence, excite and fascinate. Each paragraph will be the promise of the unopened book in the moment before reading.