What’s so great about this is that Paul read it too, so when I was finished we were able to discuss it, always a delight. There’s actually a lot about this book that’s great, so I shouldn’t make it sound like it’s just the discussion factor I liked. To start with, it is set in the offices of a dictionary. (A fictional dictionary, but it is highly esteemed, so I think it’s meant to be the equivalent of Webster’s.) Billy has just gotten his first job out of college there and we learn about the office, it’s weird history and quirks, through his eyes. Now, I have no idea whether or not any of the information in this book about how a dictionary is put together is true, but I will choose to believe it is. Because it’s just so bizarre and fascinating. Billy and the other members of the editorial staff spend time reading magazines and newspapers looking for words of possible interest for inclusion in the dictionary. They clip out the few sentences around it (for context) and then file the “cit” (citation) in a giant filing system. Then, when new editions of the dictionary are being worked on the citations are reviewed. Really? Can that possibly how dictionaries are made? Really?
So the story in the novel is that Billy comes across some bizarre citations. He and Mona (friendly co-worker, same age) notice that these unusual cits are from the same novel and that the citations are quite long. And craziest of all, the cits seem to be describing the very office they work in. They are unable to find any record of such a novel ever existing. Convinced that there must be more of these cits and that they are telling a story they set about trying to solve a mystery. Although this is the main story, it is not actually what I found most compelling. Instead, I relished the details of the office, the quirky characters, and the more subtle storyline of Billy’s adjustment to adult life. (That said, I was excited by the end of the novel to find out the conclusion of the mystery.)
A really neat book, cleverly put together. (If you want much more detail about the plot of the book, and a further critique of it, you should go ahead and check out Paul’s post on it.)