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No. 1518: Beautiful Inlawfield

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Beautiful Inlawfield

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Strip by: Manyhills

Jon: I dial a girl.
Voice over phone: Aaaaaaaa! Flee!
Jon: {despairingly} Garfield...
Garfield: Feed.

The author writes:

A beautiful in-law is a work that uses only those letters that appear in the name of its dedicatee - in this case, Garfield. As the Oulipo Compendium drolly puts it, "a tribute to Eva would leave her beloved hard put to offer anything, unless her second name were 'Macronphylgjerstiquawofbeduvsk'".

Much more fun are beautiful outlaws, which are not quite the opposite - a beautiful outlaw is a poem of N lines, where N is the length of the dedicatee's name, such that line N of the poem contains every letter of the alphabet bar the Nth letter of the name. (They are thus more of an opposite to the acrostic than to the beautiful inlaw.) Here is an illustration, and to make sure you've got the idea I'll leave you to deduce the name by yourselves (hint: it isn't "Garfield"):

Gingerly I pick my way through the room, over the floor, in a daze to the bed (jqx)
There she lies, dozing softly, weaving dreams, books, constrained poems (jqx)
And in the sun her pale face, bright eyes, make vows (jqx)
Of love, beauty, and such, pure azure dreams gone when awake (jqx)
Ruby hair stirs lazily, blinking... fading, cold. Promising now only void. (jqx)

You might note that the poem is about the absence of its subject twice over - the subject's name is on a basic literal level not present, but the subject to whom the name refers is also, in the world of the poem, missing, intangible, void. I like to think of this as an illustration of Roubaud's First Principle - a text written in accordance with a restrictive procedure refers to that procedure - although I think the reference Roubaud was talking about is meant to be a direct and literal one.

Original strips: 1998-12-15, 1998-10-14, 1998-02-12, 2002-07-05.