Nicholas D. Nace
Pages: 140pp + 8pp insert
Binding: softback with foil-embossed cover; loose-leaf insert, fold-out sheet
Illustration: text only
Dimensions: 167mm x 98 mm
The process of imposition, by which the pages of books are arranged for printing on large sheets, creates a complex pattern of two-sided, non-sequential, paired inversions. Once that large sheet is properly cut and folded into quires, the pages can be gathered, stacked and bound into their intended order for reading.
Between the 15th and 18th centuries, that assembly had a textual aid, hidden in plain sight: a few letters printed in the bottom-right margin of each page which anticipated the first word at the top of the following page. A quick glance by the binder could confirm that the ‘catch-word’ matched the start of the next page’s text, and therefore that the sequencing and pagination were correct.
Nicholas D. Nace’s new book-length poem gathers all of the catch-words in the first edition of Samuel Richardson’s landmark novel Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady (1748), one of the longest novels in the English language. Their new vertical arrangement follows the physical structure of its source: each catch-word becomes a line, each gathering becomes a stanza, each volume a canto, until all 883,716 words from the 2,564 pages of Richardson’s book (he was both author and printer) have been accounted for. The process repeats in the manner of a musical ‘catch’ until, finally, the words are gone.
“Smart, fun and revealing—Catch-words reminds us that certain overlooked and unnoticed dimensions of literature can still be discovered by looking at the overlooked.”
—Johanna Drucker, Breslauer Professor of Bibliographical Studies, UCLA
“An elegant, sly, wonderfully droll reinvention of Clarissa. Nace’s minimalist columnar tale cuts out all excess verbiage (i.e. almost the entire novel!) but reproduces precisely the erotic fear and anxiety of the original.”
—Marjorie Perloff, Sadie D. Patek Professor Emerita of Humanities, Stanford
Nicholas D. Nace is a poet and critic living in rural Virginia. He has edited several books on poetry, most recently The Fate of Difficulty in the Poetry of Our Time (Northwestern UP, 2017).
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