July 19th, 2007

  • pgdf

Sixties Novels, Part 28


ENCYCLOPEDIA, Richard Horn, Grove, 1969

Once more we return to Grove Press, the strange attractor of all literary things Sixties.

This book is one of the few in our survey that exhibits formalistic innovation, a true Sixties hallmark. (Or maybe not, given its infrequency among our random sample.) It's written in the form of a series of bite-sized alphabetical entries, from which a disjointed story emerges. Perhaps it should be considered alongside Ballard's "condensed novels" of the same period. Naturally, Ballard topped this conceit some years later, when he published his great short story "The Index," which manages to tell a coherent narrative solely through, well, an index. And of course, Geoff Ryman's 253 exhibits something of the same conceit.

TIME magazine was cryptically underwhelmed in its contemporaneous review:

Friday, Oct. 24, 1969

ENCYCLOPEDIA by Richard Horn. 157 pages. Grove Press. $4.95. The hapless love affair of hopeful Poet Tom (Americana) Jones and wealthy, bohemia-bound Sadie (Britannica) Massey is cross-referenced in brief, satirical, encyclopedic passages from ABORTION to zoo CAFETERIA. What you can't look up, you can't put down.

What of the author? He's fallen off the face of the globe--or at least the face of the internet. The bio on the dj of this debut book claims he was writing another novel. DESIGNS came out under his byline in 1981. Plenty of copies of both books on ABE. But personal data about Richard Horn and his fate is nil.

Posted by Paul DiFi.