Whether you wish to acknowledge it or not, the holiday shopping season is indeed upon us. And while many of you may be looking to the latest Wii-inspired/infringing devices from Xbox and Playstation to make your loved ones momentarily happy with you and the season, may I suggest a more luddite alternative? In short, a book. But not just any book. Oh no. A book that I stumbled upon while Googling my own name for pathetic self-validation. A book that Amazon.com is now selling for a mere and curiously priced $14.14. A book that comes in at a whopping 20 pages and 1.6 ounces. A book that does not, in fact, actually exist.
Yes, that Sally Forth. No, not the Wally Wood comic strip Sally Forth. No, not the record company Sally Forth. No, not the turn of phrase "sally forth." No, not the untold number of bloogers who write under the name "Sally Forth." But yes, that Sally Forth.
However, before you quickly go to Amazon and snatch up your eleven hundred copies, let's review the "book" in the spirit of consumer protection, shall we?
First, let us take note of the collection's distinctive yet highly descriptive imprint--Books LLC--a publisher that not only plainly focuses on its own namesake but whose very limited liability status clearly prevents it from dealing with the potential legal and financial culpability that so often comes with cover art, correct typesetting or a spine. I'm not even certain that there are actually any pages behind said cover rather than the idea of pages. So minimal is the collection's tangible qualities, in fact, that were it not for the slightly embossed paper stock one could almost assume that this may very well be the first tome to be published in a purely gaseous state. So take that, e-books!
Second, and more importantly, let's review the authors. The third author in particular, that is--Ted Forth. Obviously his inclusion in the masthead can only mean that not only is this a collection of Sally Forth strips but also a glorious work of metafiction so aware of its own construct and conventions that it draws awareness to its status as an assembly of supposed artistic fabrications by having one of the strip's character--and a secondary character at that--co-author the book. Perhaps the book is Ted Forth talking about the stories behind the stories in the strip, spinning creative "reality" behind the illusion, like Tristam Shandy but with far more robot monkeys. Or perhaps it's a collection of Ted Forth trying to read said collection, like If on a winter's night a traveler, alternating between him preparing to peruse the strip and then the strip itself, causing us to question not only how and why we read but also why we need to be far more careful in our book purchases. Or maybe Ted Forth's inclusion as author is a proofreader error, but a purposeful one. A seemingly insignificant detail that actually elaborates and comments on the collection as a whole, like a footnote in Infinite Jest or that obsessive-compulsive who highlighted every damn paragraph and repeatedly wrote "what does it mean?" in the margins of my used university bookstore copy of The Sot-Weed Factor, forever causing me to associate John Barth with autism spectrum disorder. OR, maybe since the very existence of this collection is fictitious to begin with, it's not just a statement on such fiction but on the things we dearly need to hold true to make sense of our lives, like books, like art, like comic strips and like online retailers we trust are selling actual product.
And third, and even more importantly, this imaginary book does not have a single customer review yet. Go nuts.
So this holiday season, avoid the long lines, the endless gadgets and the need to impress. Simply click on Amazon and get the one gift that will make friends, family and loved ones say, "You know, Hickory Farms sells both cheese and sausage in one gift basket."