The dream which occupies the tortuous mind of every palindromist is that somewhere within the confines of the language lurks the Great Palindrome, a nutshell which not only fulfils the intricate demands of the art, flowing sweetly in both directions, but which also contains the Final Truth of Things.
Palindromania is not a disorder but, rather, an evolutionary, passionate effort to cobble letters into order and truth. I say "evolutionary" because I believe that in our species is evolving a heightened wonderment at and facility with the universe of letters. We are getting better at making the alphabet dance.
The Vocabula Review, January 2002, Vol. 4, No. 1
They're very hard to write. My only major effort in this field is the following 306-word masterpiece, Dog Sees Ada, composed in 1991. You may expect a grander effort, to be titled Seid Ada (German for "To Be Ada") in 2002. I have a rough idea for the plot of Seid Ada but I haven't yet figured out how it will end.
Writing a long palindrome requires patience and a keen eye for hidden words. If you've ever wandered the aisles of a grocery store, noticing the "lonely" in "Tylenol," the "nosy" in "Tyson," or the "soiree" in "Cheerios," there is a decent chance that you, too, could compose such a work.
In the construction of a large palindrome, the author will often have several "threads" of text going at once—a solitary middle thread, whose middle will ultimately be the middle of the entire work, and several pairs of threads, each element of the pair being a reversal of the other.
The tricky part is connecting these threads in ways that preserve the palindromic nature of the work. You just need to think hard, use a dictionary, be flexible, and accept that sizable chunks just aren't going to make sense.
The most annoying letter to palindromists (in the English language) is H. It appears in digraphs in many common words (e.g.: the, that, who, where, digraph); the usage of any of these words requires the reverse-digraph to appear elsewhere in the text, or else that the digraph mirror a word boundary. H does not really end that many words, so you find your characters all start sounding like Islamic Canadians (Allah, eh?). You eventually give up on using "the," and the reader starts to suspect that the distinction between definite and indefinite articles was not a property of whatever your first language was, which cannot possibly have been English.
Palindrome-ness is a unary relation! There is no such thing as the "palindrome" of a word or phrase—I prefer the term "reversal." "Stressed" and "desserts" are reversals of each other, and neither one is a palindrome. "Stressed desserts" is a palindrome. It follows that every palindrome is a reversal of itself, and conjoined reversals always form a palindrome.
In 1969, Georges Perec composed a 500-word palindrome in French. Strictly speaking, he did not compose a palindrome; in fact he composed what David Bellos calls a "twin palindrome," or two roughly 500-word-long pieces of text, each of which is a reversal of the other. This is an effort comparable in difficulty to composing a single 1000-word palindrome. From Bellos' Georges Perec: a Life in Words:
The Great Palindrome must have been the very hardest of texts to write, and it is undeniably difficult to read. Knowledge of the constraint disarms critical faculties; when you know that it is a monster palindrome, you tend to see nothing but its palindromic design. At Manchester, in 1989, doctored photocopies and unsigned handwritten versions were given to sutudents and teachers of French who were to mark it as an essay. Perec's palindrome barely made sense to the readers. Some teachers took it for the work of an incompetent student, while others suspected that they had been treated to a surrealist text produced by "automatic writing." Those with psychiatric interests identified the author as an adolescent in a dangerously paranoid state; those who had not forgotten the swinging sixties wondered whether it was LSD or marijana that had generated the disconnected images of the text. Readers seem to project their own positive and negative fantasies onto Perec's palindrome, as they do one other difficult, obscure and unattributed works. But it is perhaps not now simply a matter of projection if we glimpse anger, cruelty, and self-mutilation in some of the jagged images of Perec's reversible text.
28 July 2002 marks the publication of another palindrome of some length—181 words, to be exact—simply as an "exercise de style" for www.growndodo.com's main page.
Writing this one was considerably more difficult than writing Dog Sees Ada, as there was an additional constraint, that I somehow thread in nine words appropriate to serve as links to the various subsections of this site. As a result I have to admit that this new palindrome makes even less sense than Dog Sees Ada, if such a thing is indeed possible.
In the original Exercises de Style Queneau (who probably lacked Perec's unique facility with this form) did not include a palindromic rendition. I now believe I understand why. Barbara Wright should be very grateful.