I’ve been a regular reader of Caleb Crain’s blog, Steamboats are Ruining Everything, for a few years now, and it’s even better than its title suggests, so I was looking forward to reading his first novel. Necessary Errors traces the life of its central character, a young, gay American who’s been drawn to Prague just after the fall of Communism. It’s beautifully written and evokes the place and time remarkably well. The interplay between the young community of expatriates who are Jacob’s colleagues at an English-language training school and the Czechs who are coming to terms with the end of the Cold War is fascinating.
Crain has been posting illustrations to accompany the novel in a section of his blog, in a revival of a practice originating in the 18th century known as extra-illustrating or grangerization: readers would collect illustrations and insert them into their own copy of a book.