In the essay “Notes on What I’m Looking For,” Georges Perec proposes that his writings orbit around four preoccupations or targets for inquiry: the quotidian, introspection, games, and fictions. These are certainly illustrated in the slim book of essays Brief Notes on the Art and Manner of Arranging One’s Books, named after the second-longest selection in the volume.
Perec is known for his association with OuLiPo, a group of writers using ludic constraints to produce texts, and an example of that engagement is in the book’s final and longest piece, “Think/Classify,” which has subheadings lettered in conspicuously non-alphabetic sequence. It’s not until the penultimate section W (directly following K) that he discloses the series to be the order of the appearance of the alphabet in a chapter of Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller ….
This book reads quickly and offers a lot of variety while keeping to its central themes. The essays are structured unconventionally, and even when they address rather routine topics (e.g. a “bucket list” in “Some of the Things I Really Must Do Before I Die”) they have surprising and entertaining details (e.g. “Get drunk with Malcolm Lowry”).