Today I was browsing the interwebs, as one does, looking, in fact, through the Culcher section of the London Observer, and I came across a book I'd never heard of.
I was reading one of those "ten best of" lists that clutter the nets. Newspapers run them because you read #10 and then you have to click again to read #9, and so forth, so each list, which would normally be a 30 second read and one click is 10 clicks and two minutes, which causes rejoicing in newspaper advertising land. All those eyeballs! No matter that there's actually only one pair and it is studiously avoiding the ads because it knows exactly where to look to avoid seeing them. (And it - well, not the pair of eyeballs, but the eyeballs' brain - has switched the sound off just in case as well.)
This particular list was The Ten Most Difficult Books to Finish and it includes of course such stalwarts as Finnegan's Wake and V. It also includes something by Will Self, and there's only one thing I want to know about Will Self, which is: How did he get his name? I can't imagine anyone naming a boy that, so I have to assume he willed it himself, which gets me in danger of falling down a rabbit hole of solipsism.
Anyway, one of the books on there was Very Difficult To Finish Indeed, and I'd also never heard of it. It is Alphabetical Africa by Walter Abish and here is what it says about it:
If you can't quite read it, here it is in text:
Alphabetical Africa by Walter AbishI can see why someone might want to write it, but why would anyone want to read it? At best would be like putting out a record of someone's five finger exercises and expecting rave reviews. At worst, the very concept leads me to a better understanding of where Pol Pot was coming from.
Abish, one of America’s contemporary greats, is best known for How German is It, which was preceded by this strange and demanding avant garde experiment whose prose is restricted by a pseudo-alliterative rule: the first chapter contains only words starting with the letter a, the second chapter only words starting with a or b, etc. Each subsequent chapter adds the next letter in the alphabet to the set of allowable word beginnings. In the second half of the book, the process is reversed. Thus, z words disappear in chapter 28, y in chapter 29, etc...