REVIEW BY KATE GARBER
192 Books (New York City)
A Book of Glyphs is a tiny facsimile of a notebook that Ed Sanders filled with colored penciled glyphs while spending a few days in Florence in 2008. I think of it as an obscured travel journal. Although it does not discuss his experiences directly, it is the glyphic form of his thoughts while he was "marveling at the bustling good vibes, art, architecture, and statuary."
I find myself reading this little prize differently every time I flip through it, which is often. Sometimes I'll jump in and steal an individual glyph (e.g. romantically: "Through/The veils & vales of Forever/I hope to Boat with you").
As a whole, it also creates a similar effect as, say, Perec's La Boutique Obscure, or Joe Brainard's I Remember. As with Perec’s dream journal, we watch Sanders's preoccupations take repeated form: the use of simple universal images such as ∞ for infinity, alongside more personally meaningful images such as a "Galactic Snail" and his "Baklavah"-esque lines, all of which take on greater meaning as they interact throughout the book. Reading A Book of Glyphs as one would read a list of memories is enhanced by looking through the Glyph Notes (which are available online at Granary Books) as some glyphs refer specifically to his mother, or to a childhood friend, for example. But whether or not one reads the Notes, it is a crowning honor to the Glyphs that they can speak in the most fuzzily dreamlike way, making perfect (and different) sense to each reader. Even the most innocent scan through the book will be rewarding.
This is even to say nothing of the many literary, mythical, and linguistic references; as what I find most uncanny about A Book of Glyphs is its accomplishment at being a real "Smile-Book of Grace-Joy," which is the title Sanders originally wrote on his blank notebook.
O Book of Glyphs! Why? / Why a star? Why a book like this?
I have no critical answer except: anything that makes me ask "Why?" with such admiration and delight has already done more than enough.