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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

September 22, 1996|SUSAN SALTER REYNOLDS

PARIS OUT OF HAND: A Wayward Guide by Karen Elizabeth Gordon in collaboration with Barbara Hodgson and Nick Bantock (Chronicle Books: $19.95, 160 pp.). "Here begins a surrealist adventure through collaboration, overlapping revels of meaning and the chance encounter upon a hotel bed of the Michelin man with a sewing machine." Yes. "Mimicking the decorum and structure of the most traditional guidebooks, 'Paris Out of Hand,' through its many antic subversions, turns the pedestrian tourist into a supple and blithe explorer." Right again.

Whenever Nick Bantock controls your aesthetic environment, as he did in his "Griffin in Sabine" trilogy (which changed entirely the way we think about the romance of maps and journeys), you know that you will be uncertain of where you are in a practical sense, but you will also be uncertain of whether you are inside or outside of the mind and entirely uncertain of whose mind, exactly, you are inside or outside of. In this sense, it is like taking--no, being given--a drug (Alice-in-Wonderland style) and falling down a hole (in this case, the Metro). Since places, including Paris, are no longer what they used to be, it is a noble deed to preserve them in the imagination, and Gordon's text accomplishes this with an odd precision.

Needless to say, it's a beautiful thing, this book, with its red cloth cover, collage and quotes and little red satin ribbon to mark your place lest you fall asleep and dream, in your armchair, of Paris.

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