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This article is taken from PN Review 232, Volume 43 Number 2, November - December 2016.

The Book That Ate Itself: Travels in Surrealist New Zealand & Some Remarks on Surrealist Poetry in Britain Gregory O'Brien
THE DROWNED PAGES, 1985
Rowing an aluminium dinghy out onto Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour, I was heading for Brown’s Island, a.k.a Motukorea – a whale-shaped volcano, two kilometres offshore. Stashed atop a bundle of provisions near the prow was a recently acquired copy of the 1978 Penguin anthology English and American Surrealist Poetry, edited by Edward B. Germain – my designated reading for the day’s outing. Mid-voyage, the wake of a passing ferry struck the dinghy and, along with a few other items, the Penguin went hurtling into the choppy harbour. After some flapping about, I managed to recover the book on the end of one wooden oar and deposited it back inside the dinghy. There it remained for the rest of the day, a drowned creature, bulging grotesquely with salt water. I considered abandoning it, but the wretched anthology had cost me three dollars (a princely sum at the time) so I committed to its salvage and, as far as it might go, restoration.

Back home, I put the book on top of the refrigerator, only to discover, after a few days, that the mass of weeping paper-pulp had stuck to the enamel surface; I had to tear the back cover to free it. From then on, the anthology remained open, pages facing downwards, in a dish on top of the fridge. The paper, I soon discovered, had become permanently puckered and stained a dark brown. I suspected the book might be rotting, but pressed on regardless. Within a few days, as the drying progressed, I noticed small tunnel-like holes appearing in the pages. In a manner that ...


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