Sunday, 30 December 2007

A(dvertising) to Z(ink)

Advertising costs – around £360 for an eighth of a page in one issue of the TLS. Thinking laterally, and missing the target entirely, I placed the following ad in the Personals of three issues of the London Review of Books (among the itinerant nuns and deviant orientalists and wine-stained bibliophiles seeking one another’s souls and bodies):

‘Imagine yourself, dear reader, sitting in your favourite chair with your book and “your nine drinks lined up on the side table in soldierly array”, and every so often you look up and say, even if there is no one else in the room but the dog, “Hey, switch off the TV and listen to THIS” – and you start reading aloud. That book is a CB edition ( A free book for the first six readers who can name the story from which the nine drinks are quoted.’

The ad resulted in zero book sales but did locate fans of Donald Barthelme around the world (the free books have all gone), including a lit prof in California and one Melissa Zink in New Mexico. Melissa makes art that attempts to render the experience – rapturous, unsettling, absorbing – of reading. She has sent me a book that catalogues her work, The Language of Enchantment. Think Egyptian funerary clay statues, think Joseph Cornell boxes, think Schwitters collages, think folklore and font foundries and many other things. The whole encounter has been worth far more than the cost of the ad.

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