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April 28, 2009


Originally uploaded by Jape Wisteria

I’ve harped on this book in previous photos. Up until a month ago, I didn’t even know what to call it…Wikipedia for the save once again. It’s pleasant to know that I’m not freaking crazy and other people have done this, too.

Well, Volume 1 is finally finished. It’s riddled with typos, bad typography, and the like, but at a whopping 234 pages, I can live with slowly correcting and printing a second copy.

For me, the important thing is that I have a large collection of material off my hard drive and back on my shelf, with my other notebooks, ephemera, and bits of paper. The whole purpose of books like this is to have a living piece of knowledge, experience, and history to consult as needed, whenever you need to, quickly. Computers still can’t get that quite right. They’re loud, take forever to boot, and unless you can jam it into a Kindle, the screen just isn’t meant for comfortable reading. On second thought, I’d hate to read a Commonplace on a Kindle…they’re meant for random access.

And the fun of random access! Probably the only book in the world where Harvey Pekar rubs shoulders with Albert Einstein (p55); Colin Meloy, Alanis Morissette, John Cage, and Frank Sinatra share the spotlight (p117); Hildegard von Bingen and Noam Chomsky have breakfast (p177); Pierre Trudeau and Michael Ondaatje discuss politics (p59); and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hang out with Ken Kesey (p223).

This books spans the last 25 years of my life, collecting things that have interested me. Some things no longer interest me as much as they once did, and things that were of only passing interest then are highly treasured now.

Here’s the breakdown of what went into this book:

  • Excerpts from plays/screenplays: 1
  • Complete essays: 10
  • Essay fragments: 3
  • Complete lyrics: 24
  • Lyric fragments: 13
  • Complete poems: 138
  • Poem fragments: 13
  • Quotations: 431
  • Complete stories: 68
  • Sets of aphorisms: 4

The numbers are slightly misleading…many of the stories are less than a paragraph and many of the quotations are multiple paragraphs.

The wins

  • A lot of material went into this book. If I can win this big with volume 2, I can get practically everything that was scattered across multiple text files and almost 5 paper notebooks into 2, maybe 3 volumes.
  • It’s physical again. That means a lot to me.

The losses

  • Kinko’s service has slid so far downhill I may never get to produce a second volume. I wasn’t happy about producing a coil-bound book, but at least it’s in the real world again. I need to do some research into print-on-demand services…I don’t want to offer this for sale (due to copyright reasons), but I’d like to find a service that does private projects.
  • Lots of typos. Lots. I’ll be spending a lot of time going through this to root out the bad in the coming months.
  • I’m not a designer, so there is no grid. This was intentional, but some of the pages are really bad. I will have to be much better than this the next time around. Text was set in Dante and headers in Vera Sans.
  • The loss of continuity was very jarring. I mixed up the order the material was in the original notebook, and that is a serious loss. It’s information that can only recorded through order, and I should have respected my original decisions. I’ve been a bit more careful with this in later notebooks, and plan to keep the order of original transcription in mind when a volume 2 finally appears.

More work

I don’t know how to begin indexing this, and I need to. The Chicago Manual of Style’s section on indexing is 80 pages long…good grief.

I don’t expect to start work on a second volume for years to come, although I’m not sure…my notebooks tend to fill up fast with quotes and such. I have several complete essays that run dozens of pages…I suspect that they will be scanned into the computer as jpeg’s and placed into the next book that way. I just don’t have the time to type that much copy into a book again.

If you are interested in obtaining a copy, copyright is a tricky business. I can’t really release the book online without getting my butt sued sideways. If I know you, send an email. I have plain-text and PDF.

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