I hold the book in my hand, and the first thing I notice is the texture. A smooth plastic laminate covers the book’s cover, wrapping the front and back in a clear, ever-so-slightly reflective layer. I run my thumbs and forefingers against it; the expected inertia plastic possesses exerts itself, and I feel the pull against my skin as I move my digits. The laminate holds the thin wrapping of the cover art in place, although not much effort is required to remove it to observe the fiber-ribbed, solid peach-colored cover underneath. I don’t know why one would want the object to remain uncovered; the only information for the reader is on the spine, and such information is much more readily apparent and artfully presented on the wrapping.
I then notice the weight of the book in my hand; it’s hard cover is weighty, but not heavy. I feel as though as when I lift it, I am pushing my feet through dry hot sand on river beaches, or gnashing with my molars through a well-done cut of steak. It feels… real in my hands. Paperbacks never felt much more than simple expanded class texts, like something that was mere information passed out for the sake of objective accomplishment. Of course, I know this is false, but the hard cover… it fits in my hands a way that a paperback never will. The way it stays closed by its own accord, almost as if rests as a brick, it feels like a craftsman’s tool almost.
The book’s minimal art resembles, if not the contents of the book itself, at least the contents of the title. The Pearl Is a Hardened Sinner: Notes from Kindergarten. The text is scratchy and messy in appearance; it is most likely purposefully messy, to give the impression of a teacher’s hastily written down notes in the middle of a class period. Chalk. That’s what it is; the flawed edges of the letters, the slight fog of white hiding across the stark black background, the light-brown and stained border, which could possibly be a wooden frame. It feels… strangely sad. Chalkboards in my youth were always… well, not always entertaining, but stimulating. The information written down was always displayed adjacent to schedules for the semester’s multitude of activity, or multicolored mini-lessons of stick figures learning their a’s, b’s, c’s, one’s, two’s, three’s, and ooh’s and ahh’s. Now though, isolated and minimal… lonely.
I think back to Borsuk’s The Book, when the author voiced Greece’s relationship to the medium, saying “in ancient Greece, literature was primarily a social activity, with audiences gathering for performances of epic poetry and drama,” (55). I then think back to the promise offered by The Pearl; are we simply called to recount the document of a lonely educator? Or are we asked to join him in the artful conversation of his memories? I ask, “Has the medium changed, or has interaction?”
Kiesel, Stanley. The Pearl Is a Hardened Sinner: Notes from Kindergarden. Scribners, 1968
Borsuk, Amaranth. The Book. MIT Publishers, 2018.