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This article is taken from PN Review 213, Volume 40 Number 1, September - October 2013.

The Versionist Julith Jedamus
Quarter to seven, and all to hand. His second cup of coffee, black this time. The invisible cigarette, still wafted to his lips and tasted (his left hand tracing the old patterns, lifting and flourishing). Two sheets of Ryman's narrow-lined paper, blank as his forehead. His silver mechanical pencil, which could not be chewed, and his Artgum eraser, which looked like it had been. His yellow reading glasses, resting on The Chances of Rhyme. And, ranging before him like hills in an orderly Dorset landscape, eight stacks of books, occupying two-thirds of the gate-leg table, their colours various, their titles serious: the visible contents of his mind, his palisade against attack and failure. Many were overdue - but he knew that the gothy girl at the London Library would forgive him for it, and would renew, with a few taps of her ebony nails, Lorca's Obras Completas, in four volumes, and its aids and accomplices: the biographies in three languages, the histories of the Spanish Civil War, anthologies of Góngora, Poe, and Baudelaire, books of criticism (straight and gay) and the extraneous titles (Tynan's Bull Fever, Whitman's Leaves of Grass, Flaubert's Sentimental Education) that were, in fact, directly related to his task.

He was a versionist. He had coined the word himself: it appeared in no dictionary he had to hand, nor in the ones he consulted on-line and in the London Library. He liked the quality of the name: its dual vagueness and precision. 'Version' wasn't far from ...


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