I wish I had found Tom Phillips' book sooner.
Its title neatly describes what, verbally, he has done. He has dug into the text on each page of an extant Victorian novel, "A Human Document", sometimes obliterating all but the fragments he wants us to read, sometimes allowing us to make out more or less clearly their original context, in order to create a much odder narrative. On each page, the new texts are hilarious, surreal, poetic, quite often even absurdly and astonishingly moving, and, though the thread of a new tale emerges, these pages each have a life of their own. A new hero is created in the reshaping of the text: Bill Toge, his surname lifted from the word "together". As he moves through dooms of love, he encounters other characters, some of whom swim up to the new surface from the sunken original novel.
But this is only the half of it: every page is also a little work of art, a visual treasure in its own right. Integrated with the work Phillips perfoms upon the text, are cross-hatchings, rich, delightful colour washes, subversively referential images and odd, sometimes comic and sugestive shapes.
For all the joyous editing of the Victorian story, this is not a short book and one of its amazing strengths is its power, page by page, to find ways of sustaining its capacity to surprise and delight, verbally and visually. It will not wear out after one read, like so many essays into the comic in bound form. This is for everyone with a love of word-play, of poetry, of considered wit, and of the visually rich.