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Interesting but frustrating
on 11 January 2013
This tiny paperback is a collection of columns written by Christopher Fowler on the subject of 100 authors who "disappeared" - those who maybe published a handful of books but then nothing more, or who fell out of fashion, or who produced great work but were unknown to the majority of readers. Many of those included in the book are almost unknown, and despite being pretty well read I'd not heard of the majority included here, but there are some strange inclusions such as Bram Stoker, Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde, featured as they are known for some of their work but wrote other books which have since disappeared or aren't as famous, and also BS Johnson who wrote a few acclaimed works but then committed suicide, which to me, as with those authors who wrote great books late in life and then died, doesn't really count as disappearing. "Invisible Ink" is the kind of book you're likely to dip into, read a page, and then move on to something else, rather than read in one go as I did on a train journey.
There are two frustrating things that spoiled the book for me. Firstly as the book is a collection of columns from a newspaper the pieces are all the same length, written to a word count, and they often feel too short - just as the story of the author is getting interesting it suddenly ends, and you wish there was more. In several of the pieces we read the back-story of the author, a little about their work, and then it seems to end with "but then they died and their work is now out of print." It would have been nice if Fowler had maybe revisited some of the pieces and extended them for the book, but alas this isn't the case. Secondly there were lots of books and stories mentioned which I would love to read after hearing of them here, but as they're out of print this is impossible! It's a bit like if somebody told you about a fantastic restaurant, describing great meals they've had there, but then add "anyway, it closed down years ago" at the end. Fowler often mentions that the books are available online, but sometimes for ridiculous sums (one is quoted as being over £250), or have been reprinted in special editions which are also extremely expensive.
A quick, interesting read, but one which I found a little frustrating. If only I could read more of the books it features!