Thursday, 21 June 2007

Book Review: Chatterstoft Area Phone Book 2007/08 by British Telecom

British Telecom has just released the long-awaited sequel to their ground-breaking 2006/07 Chatterstoft Area Phone Book, and what a treat it is for fans of the genre! It was difficult to conceive how the previous volume could be bettered, but better it they have, and with aplomb!

The book starts in very much the same way as the old one, with a beautifully written chapter on local and international dialing codes. The playfulness with which the areas and countries are listed is a joy: consider the adjacent placing of the United Kingdom and the United States – which some people will recognize as a wonderful simulation of their adjacent placing at the tables of the United Nations. No less subtle is the distance between these two countries in the list and another of the US’s allies in international affairs, Australia. The imagery is striking: The UK and US, United as their names suggest, together towards the end of the list, while their ally sadly looks on from the beginning. Such wonderful satire at so early a place in the book!

And there is more to come. The authors have included many wonderfully playful elements to the book, such as the list of ‘Saints’ that arrives before the rest of the ‘S’ surnames. Why is this? Is it because the saints are above the common surnames like Smith and Spencer? Does their separation indicate arrogance? Or, conversely, do the rest of the ‘S’ surnames deliberately distance themselves from the Saints? Are they not worthy to occupy the same space as those sacred surnames? We are left to decide for ourselves.

There are many brilliant changes to the book when it is compared with the previous one. A new addition is the wonderfully-monikered Dave Shuttleworth, of 42 Primrose Gardens, CT2 8LE. How poetic the name and address become when placed together! But consider the following lines:

Julian Beresford 22 Thornhill Avenue 562-3340
Keith Beresford 4 Windsor Road 562-8046

Such lyricism! Such economy of feeling! Such clever juxtaposition! How beautiful it is to run the lines over in one’s head, enjoying the slight jump between the ‘0’ at the end of the first line and the ‘Keith’ at the beginning of the second.

And you may think that such wonderful pairs of lines could be rare, but they crop up all over the book. Indeed, I found the hairs on the back of my neck stand up on average once per page. Marvelous! And I haven’t mentioned the ‘services’ pages yet!

I cannot recommend this book enough. At more than a thousand pages long it is a little heavy, and it is not without some dull areas (the ‘Jones’ chapter particularly comes to mind), but there is something here for everyone. British Telecom have done it again!

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