I’ve got a paper cut-out book about locks, and this afternoon I cut out all of the parts. Together all the parts would make three separate mechanisms: a warded lock, a cylinder lock and a combination lock. The idea of the book is to demonstrate some of principles of these devices, which are easier to understand in three-dimensional working models than in diagrams or plans.

paper-locks

I don’t want to make the models though, I want to leave the book with its pieces out. With its pieces cut out the book has been started, it’s been opened out, and the pieces can’t be put back. If I don’t construct the models then the promise of the book is frustrated. If the pieces are cut out but absent, so that it’s unclear whether or not I’ve constructed the models, then there’s a double frustration: the promise of the book might be frustrated or might not be. The frustration itself is frustrated.

There’s the option for readers of The God of the Labyrinth to not reread the novel, and not re-solve the mystery, even though at the end of the book a flaw is revealed in the original solution. The original solution is broken, so there’s an imperative to fix it, but nobody’s going to hold the reader to the imperative. The reader might just leave it at that, sated with the knowledge that various things happen in the story; it’s unclear who committed the crime; the detective’s solution is incorrect; and that rereading the story would yield the solution. The reader could choose to frustrate the operation of the story.

And once again there’s a double frustration in The God of the Labyrinth, because it’s an imaginary book whose readers are also imaginary. The choices they might make about whether or not to reread the book are inaccessible to us.

I want to think about how these things relate to the marking up I’m doing in Language in the Modern World, and whether perhaps I should be doing the marking up to a different kind of book altogether.

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