The Dodecahedron or A Frame for Frames by Paul Glennon

Inspired by the deliberate writing constraints of Oulipo writers, Paul Glennon uses a dodecahedron as scaffolding for his collection of short stories The Dodecahedron or A Frame for Frames.

In ‘Some Clippings for my Article on Machine Literature’, an interview with the creator of Amanuensis, software to create books, we read:

He goes on to describe a novel based on the geometry of the dodecahedron. ‘Each of the twelve faces represents a different narrative. The thirty edges represent the relationships between these stories. The twenty vertices . . .’ Plunge’s girlfriend of five years, who has been coaxed outside to help hold the whiteboard, raises her eyebrows ever higher as he goes on.

‘It’s a bit much,’ concludes the girlfriend. The structure almost gets in the way of twelve superb short stories. Perhaps anxious that readers might not appreciate the cleverness of using a dodecahedron to define the relationship between each short story, Glennon provides an explanatory Afterword. I understood the constraint from the title of the story collection. Knowing the structure adds an allure to reading the stories, but by the end it feels somewhat over-laboured.

The interrelationship between the stories is fascinating. In the first story, ‘In My Father’s Library,’ a young boy consumes his father’s ‘special’ books to keep them from three sinister investigators. The different repercussions of this act, in later stories, is exhilarating. Glennon is an imaginative storyteller who creates memorable worlds.

By the conclusion of the book, we are no wiser about which of the various stories represent the ‘true’ interpretation. The collection is all the better for that ambiguity.

Thanks to The Wolves for the inspiration to read this book.

6 thoughts on “The Dodecahedron or A Frame for Frames by Paul Glennon

  1. >I agree that things got a bit labored, especially toward the end, but also agree with the fascination of the interconnecting stories and the strength gained by Glennon's ability to let things stay ambiguous. I like his concept of the final story not being the "final word" – of each story informing all the others equally. I had a lot of fun with this one; glad you enjoyed it too. 🙂


  2. >I don't think that I've ever scribbled in a book quite as much as this one. Lacking your motivation to complete the brilliant mapping of the dodecahedron, I came up with a coding system and annotated almost every page. Or rather I did for the first eight stories, then got a bit bored with the scaffolding, and just enjoyed the stories.


  3. >I'm glad you enjoyed this, Anthony, but the content was so middling to me that it was hard to appreciate the structure that you and the others found so fascinating. In contrast, Georges Perec's Life A User's Manual wowed me both with its feverish storytelling and its "architecture" (not that it's really fair to compare Glennon with Perec). Anyway, hope you'll consider joining us for the Josipovici read this month–I'm very much look forward to that one. Cheers!


  4. >I agree that the interrelationship is fascinating in certain regards, and I found myself enjoying individual pieces here, but the self-consciousness of the structuring killed it for me. I agree wholeheartedly with Richard about the comparisons with Perec. This in no way approximated the experience of Life A User's Manual for me.And your opinions of the Josipovici inspired me to pick this for my first turn of the year with the Wolves. Expect I will be returning to your insights soon.


  5. >Thanks, Frances. Your comments here and elsewhere accord with my reading, though I possibly enjoyed the stories a little more, and the mystery of trying to figure out the interrelationships. Glennon is clearly very proud of his structure, and his explanation at the end was unnecessary and condescending.


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