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In September of 2004, with an unaccustomed amount of time on my hands after having finished up the revisions and re-revisions of IN THE NIGHT ROOM, I wandered into a craft fair on the grounds of Lincoln Center and, acting against all of my customary inclinations, bought a beautiful little handmade book with a soft leather cover and thick, gorgeous paper. It was just too nice, too striking, to pass up. I half-supposed I might one day write something in it, but as soon as I brought the book home, I realized that its textured, ivory-colored paper asked for drawings, for visual imagery. Since I can’t draw, I fell back on the next best thing and covered the pages with collages made from words and pictures cut from books and magazines. I have always taken pleasure in decorating the covers of my manuscript books with layered collages — for one thing, it’s an amazingly satisfying way to procrastinate — and the little book offered me the possibility of extending this pleasure over the one hundred pages bound into its leather covers.

I began by cutting out passages from a book about the ghoulish Albert Fish, highlighting certain phrases and crossing out others, then gluing them in with photographs taken from the same source, but after a couple of days I let Albert recede into the background and started concentrating on what happened as I played with imagery that could be seen as a deeply-hidden narrative about the fate and eventual release of the spirit of Fish’s most notorious victim, a girl named Mary Budd, after which I started trying to make this element more apparent, but on the whole, I was simply enjoying myself, moving forward through my gorgeous, increasingly-less-blank book at the rate of about four pages a day. Some sentences and phrases derive from a novel I thought was delightfully nutty in its bland straightforwardness of style, others were clipped from various horror anthologies I had never bothered to read. For something like two months, I spent each day in a trance of purposeful pleasure. What sheer fun it was to put this book together. I hope some of my enjoyment will be experienced by those who look through the pages represented here.

Peter Straub
New York, July 2005