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This review is taken from PN Review 266, Volume 48 Number 6, July - August 2022.

Cover of Lorem Ipsum
Rowland BagnallOli Hazzard, Lorem Ipsum (Prototype) £12
Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine; – they are the life, the soul of reading; – take them out of this book, for instance, you might as well take the book along with them
– Laurence Sterne

It is difficult to know how to adequately review Oli Hazzard’s new book, a single, syntactically impeccable sentence of exactly 50,000 words, not least because the text itself seems not to know how to describe itself, an ‘essay or zuihitsu or novel or email or monologue or text – what is it,’ referring to a genre – ‘or perhaps anti-genre’ – of Japanese prose writing most famous for its loosenesses. Vaguely epistolary, Lorem Ipsum – whose title alludes to a randomly-generated placeholder text used commonly in typesetting – makes space for anything and everything, like Mary Poppins’s handbag. In a way, I can do no better than to cite Hazzard’s own review of Simone Kearney’s recent collection, Days (2021), which seems to introduce the contours of his own book just as well: ‘It registers things as they happen, anticipates events and remembers them, gets distracted by stuff in the room and by the act of composition, and describes this practice of inattention with the intimate, semi-serious, overheard frustration of the diarist.’  

Lorem Ipsum’s cover shows the blueprint of a Cluedo-style house, hinting at the novel’s own expansive architecture. Whether deliberately or not, it is reminiscent of Llanada Villa in California, Sarah Winchester’s eccentric, maze-like mansion, added to throughout her life in the hope that she might somehow appease the malevolent spirits ...

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