Mirror, mirror

<strong>Only Revolutions</strong>

Mark Z Danielewski <em>Doubleday, 384pp, £20</em>

ISBN 0375421

Mark Z Danielewski's bestselling debut novel, House of Leaves, catalogued in a rather un-Lewis-like manner a mythical world stumbled upon by an academic in his spare room. Like its predecessor, Only Revolutions is purpose-built for literature students. It is a feat of typographical engineering, with dazzling prose crafted around multiple characters. But it's also a step on from his first book, which, printing conventions aside, still reads like a novel.

Only Revolutions describes in two free-verse poems the journey and romance of teenagers Sam and Hailey as they drive across the US over a period of time from the civil war to the present. The inter- locking poems begin at different ends of the book, each occupying the top or bottom half of the page, depending on which way up you're looking at it. Margin notes list moments in history suggested online by the author's fans.

A brief glance at the mess of fonts and language on either of the first pages will elicit complaints about academic overindulgence. But Danielewski's beautiful, Joycean jabberwocky becomes all the more compelling the further into each end you delve: "And from slate scattered screes/where blabbating Brook Trout/glee, I start the ball rolling/by ambling off." Postgraduate manna.