The Library of Congress > Wise Guide > September 2009 > The Exquisite Corpse Adventure
The Exquisite Corpse Adventure

“This story starts with a train rushing through the night.

"The full moon lights the silver rails winding around dark mountains, through deep woods, and over steep gorges of jagged rock and one freezing cold rushing black mountain river.

"I wish there was enough time to describe all of the funny (and touching) twists and turns – especially the Elephant Clown Party – that led up to now. But there isn’t. Enough time. Because there is a ticking clock. And the two passengers we care most about don’t know anything about it. …”

Skeleton in clown costume. 1932. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZ62-58199 (b&w film copy neg.); Call No.: Illus. in PS2612.A1 1932 [Rare Book RR] Catalog record: http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b06012A young reader enjoys a moment in the sun at the 2008 National Book Festival. Photo by Gail Fineberg. Reproduction information: Reproduction information not available.

And so begins “The Exquisite Corpse Adventure,” a serial adventure story for initial exclusive publication on the Library of Congress’ new read.gov website. National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Jon Scieszka [//www.loc.gov/bookfest/2009/authors/Scieszka.html]—the author of "The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales" and the "Time Warp Trio" series—begins the tale, followed by installments from notable children’s authors and illustrators M.T. Anderson, Natalie Babbitt, Calef Brown, Susan Cooper, Kate DiCamillo, Nikki Grimes, Shannon Hale, Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket), Steven Kellogg, Gregory Maguire, Megan McDonald, Patricia and Fredrick McKissack, Linda Sue Park, Katherine Paterson, James Ransome and Chris Van Dusen.

You may ask, “What’s in a name?” As it turns out, Scieszka wasn’t necessarily ruminating on zombies and the living dead. Exquisite corpse (also known as “exquisite cadaver” or “rotating corpse”) is a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled, the result being known as the “exquisite corpse” or “cadavre exquis” in French. Each collaborator adds to a composition in sequence, either by following a rule or by being allowed to see the end of what the previous person contributed. The technique was invented by Surrealists and is similar to an old parlor game called “Consequences” in which players write in turn on a sheet of paper, fold it to conceal part of the writing, and then pass it to the next player for a further contribution.

The initial installment of "The Exquisite Corpse Adventure" will premiere—along with the updated website—at the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival, on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009, on the National Mall.