Dan Holloway’s recently published novel Evie and Guy is a true oddity. The author wanted to write a novel without using those restrictive things: words. This has been done before, of course. Most recently (to my knowledge) by Sheridan Shed Simove whose What Every Man Thinks About Apart From Sex briefly became a bestseller in 2011. Simove’s book of 200 blank pages was a cleverish joke. And you could scribble whatever you liked on the blank pages when you got bored with it. Ultimately, however, the joke had a pretty limited shelf life and it was an expensive sort of notebook
What Dan’s done isn’t a bit like that. Evie and Guy is 120 pages long. Apart from the prelims it contains nothing but numbers. And it is not a joke.
It is almost impossible to say anything about the content of this book because of spoilers. You may wonder how that could be possible for a book comprising only numbers but, oddly (as I’ve been wrestling with this review for a couple of weeks now) every time I write a sentence describing its content I find that what’s in that sentence is likely to impinge on your reading pleasure.
So how to review this? It being a book of numbers and yet still claiming to be a novel is, of course, noteworthy. And here we are on safe ground: it certainly is a novel. It is one which has something in common with the old ‘choose your own adventure’ novels. In this case you don’t turn to page 85 if you want Boobjob the Magnificent to slay the dragon or page 231 if you want her to sojourn in yonder tavern. The author invites you to impose your own experiences – and you have those on too many levels for me even to contemplate listing here – on the numbers he has provided and create something completely new as a result. Indeed, it should be possible to return to the book time after time, with a slightly different mindset, and find new stories among the numbers in it.
Do investigate Evie and Guy for yourself. It gives more free rein to the imagination of the reader than I have ever encountered before. And it demands the reader bring more of him/herself to it than any book I’ve previously come across. The only boundaries to one’s imagination are the numbers on the pages. And, conversely, the freedom to choose one’s own narrative is entirely dependent on those same numbers. It may be the first book ever to do this. There is a clever philosophical concept which underlies this premise, which I don’t pretend to understand – but I do understand the power that Dan Holloway has given to his readers with this book. You could, indeed, use it to generate other works of fiction. It is both completely satisfying as a novel and totally frustrating. It demands that you trust-fall into it. Otherwise all those numbers become just spiky little marks on the page. Embrace it and you can lose yourself in it for hours.
Dan has posted an explanation of the project on the ‘Do Authors Dream of Electric Books?’ website. Do not read this article before reading the book. It’s called ‘How do you write a novel without using words?’ Here’s a link to it: http://authorselectric.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/how-do-you-write-novel-without-using.html.
And this is what Dan says about how to get hold of a copy of Evie and Guy:
“This pdf is provided free of charge. Please feel free to share it at will provided you also do so for free and you keep all the credits intact. It is free because I believe culture should be as widely available as possible. If you enjoy this work, or think it important that I carry on working on projects like this, please donate whatever you can afford/feel is appropriate by Paypal to email@example.com. Or, from April 12th, buy the paperback, details of which are at http://danholloway.wordpress.com.”
3 thoughts on “Dan Holloway writes a conundrum”
This sounds totally bizarre and also intriguing. Is it a mathematical approach perhaps? I can’t get my ahead around a novel comprising numbers!
I think one of the reasons is that as soon as I’m given words to play with I ramble ad infinitum. (there are links on my website to some very lengthy interviews about what i was aiming to do and how I did it). There is an explanatory note in the preface, but I know Judi thinks the book works better if you don’t read that until after the book.
Judi, thank you for such a thoughtful, insightful review and for paying the ultimate compliment of taking what I was doing seriously
If you go to Dan’s website you can download a pdf. See what you think. I really daren’t say anything more about the approach because it does cause spoilers. You need to discover what it is for yourself, otherwise it loses its oomph.