Fascinating Stories About Semi-Skimmed Milk

IMAGE: An iconic example of the fictional book genre: J. R. Hartley’s Fly Fishing, invented to tug at our heartstrings in this Yellow Pages advert from the 1980s. A frail elderly man (left) calls several used-book dealers in vain, searching for a copy of Fly Fishing by J. R. Hartley. When he finally tracks down a copy and gives his shipping details, it turns out that he is none other than J. R. Hartley himself. The ad was such a hit that author Michael Russell then adopted the pseudonym J. R. Hartley for his book, Fly Fishing: Memories of Angling Days.

I’m a big fan of the Invisible Library, which catalogues books “that exist only between the covers of other books—as descriptions, occasionally as brief excerpts, often simply as titles.” The list includes several items of potential interest to Edible Geographers, such as Cooking the Captain: The Colonialist as Yorkshire Pudding by Stanley Tulafale (from James Hynes’s Publish and Perish) and Offal, by Stultitia Bodwin (from P.G. Wodehouse’s “Best Seller,” in Mulliner Nights).

IMAGE: INK chose forty titles from the Invisible Library to illustrate; the results were on display at London’s Tenderpixel Gallery in June and July 2009.

Further exploiting the allusive charm of fictional books (as Invisible Library co-founder Ed Park says, “Why write the whole book when you can get so much mileage out of the title alone?”), The Official Catalog of the Library of Potential Literature is now seeking submissions. A real book about fake books, the catalogue will consist purely of titles and blurbs, and its editors Ben Segal and Erinrose Meger promise that “each paragraph will be the promise of the unopened book in the moment before reading.”

Along these lines, Edible Geography recently learned of a fictional blog written by the new milkman, Harry, from The Archers, Radio Four’s long-running soap. According to his less articulate, resentful milk round colleague, Jazzer, Harry’s blog is full of “fascinating stories about semi-skimmed milk.” A little light Googling reveals that either Radio Four staff or obsessed fans have already tried to bring this fictional blog to life, but the current content—a single post—is a sad disappointment.

Inspired by the unfulfilled promise of Harry’s blog, Edible Geography would like to propose a list of fictional food blogs that fit under either category—either the ones we wish existed, as in the Official Catalog, or the ones that have been mentioned in other works of fiction, as in the Invisible Library. The Ambridge Milk Round blog is just the tip of the iceberg, surely? Crumbs: A Typology, perhaps, or the Cliff Clavin Beer Intelligencer—or the witty, if slightly pretentious, An Oxtail Dumpling Odyssey, regularly updated by Paul Kinsey of Mad Men… Suggestions welcome!

[NOTE: Thanks to The Second Pass for news of The Official Catalog of the Library of Potential Literature and Joe Moran's blog for pointing me towards Harry's fictional blog, as well as Dechen Pemba for the J. R. Hartley reminder.]

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3 Comments

  1. Posted May 8, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Georgia—I always appreciate your comments!
    And you’re right—Rebecca Federman’s blog is right up my alley. In fact, Sarah Rich and I invited Rebecca to speak at our first Foodprint Project event, Foodprint NYC. You can watch the video online here.

  2. Posted May 8, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    We appreciate your support. Thanks for the write up, Nicola.

    Erinrose and Ben

    The Official Catalog of the Library of Potential Literature

  3. Posted May 8, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    I follow your blog — fascinating topics. Found this blog – http://www.nypl.org/blog_series/cooked-books – while at nypl.org and thought “It’s up Edible Geography’s alley!”

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