Destroying The Book

The Wasted Book © Danny Whirlow

To create my “book,” I initially drew from Borsuk’s discussion of the ephemerality of the book, particularly the idea of deconstructing it and leaving it vulnerable to the elements. She says: “Not only are their physical physical forms (including the tablet, scroll, codex, and variations) susceptible to decay, their power to spread ideas makes them vulnerable to censorship, defacement, and destruction, particularly motivated by ideological and political difference (179).” I sought to pair this with a physical engagement to the text, so that the reader would have to destroy the “book” as part of the process to read the text (the reader could also just ignore the text if he or she deemed the title uninteresting). I did this by gluing the pieces of notebook paper together at either end, thereby binding the text in a short of paper capsule.

However, this is not a secure capsule by any means. The notebook paper is fragile, and can easily be damaged by water, swept away by wind, or torn with too much force. In order to obtain the knowledge which the reader seeks, he or she must be able to give up the notion of a book’s physical perfection, while also sacrificing some of the knowledge itself in the process (this further engages the reader allowing him or her to piece back together severed strands of text).

I chose to use notebook paper as my material of choice because as a studious (?) college student, I have a great abundance of it. This is also how I landed on the using graphite-spewing mechanical pencils to transcribe the text. The freehanded nature of this transcription gives the text a loose quality, and the graphite is just as fragile as the paper; it can easily be erased or smeared. Its dull gray color also evokes a colorless wasteland, which inspired my choice of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land as the poem I would transcribe.

Building on this aforementioned looseness, I turned the notebook paper sideways, favoring the immense width of the Landscape style over the confining narrowness of Portrait style. With space for the text to breath, this action also turned the typically horizontal page lines to vertical. This was beneficial because I would write against the lines, rather than with them. All of these format and design choices were in an effort breakaway from Ulises Carrión calls “an ideal space (3).” I sought to subvert the streamlined nature of academic equipment I am surrounded by, in an attempt prevent, as Borusk says, “bleary-eyed” rereads of a significant poem.

Works Citied

Borsuk, Amaranth. The Book. The MIT Press, 2018.

Carrion, Ulises. The New Art of Making Books. Aegean Editions, 2001.

5 thoughts on “Destroying The Book”

  1. I really like how you used something simple like loose leaf paper, it’s something that we use all the time as college students and there are so many purposes for it. I also like how you changed directions with the paper, it made for a unique book. Every book is different and really tells a lot about the author. I like how you designed yours and made it your own.

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  2. Danny, I love your descriptions of various parts of this process. “Severed strands of text” and “confining narrowness of Portrait style”–I think these give otherwise mundane objects a body, which is the point (in my opinion) of re-imagining the concept of “book.”

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  3. “He or she must be able to give up the notion of a book’s physical perfection, while also sacrificing some of the knowledge itself in the process (this further engages the reader allowing him or her to piece back together severed strands of text).” Wow! This is such a cool idea, and preys on my own perfectionistic nature. I like the interactive quality this adds to the book for a reader–the main purpose of the text wouldn’t be preservation, but rather the memorable experience a reader initially has when they, literally, tear into the book itself! I appreciate your creative use of available materials and your beautifully-written article to accompany it! You make mundane lead pencils and loose-leaf paper sound like special artist media!

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  4. I like what you set out to explore—not even so much the “ephemeral” nature of the physical book, but its overwhelming vulnerability to so many kinds of injury/violence! The way you set the reader up to destroy-by-reading strikes me as a very direct way of exploring the threats of direct hostility that Borsuk describes, making them more immediate and palpable–and also, directly implicating your reader! Suddenly I am the perpetrator of censorship, I am the de-facer of what I cannot or refuse to face. How would I feel in this role? I sense that I would be uncomfortable but aware that this destroying happens in order to create –to create your book object and enable its meditation on the books fragility and how it exists under very real constant threat of violence. I can guess at why you chose the The Waste Land, with its “heap of broken images” and maybe, also, for its famously radical editing process that left it at about 1/2 of its original length (making its creation at least about 1/2 destruction).
    I’ll draw out the same quote that Clair did, because I love it: ” In order to obtain the knowledge which the reader seeks, he or she must be able to give up the notion of a book’s physical perfection, while also sacrificing some of the knowledge itself in the process (which further engages the reader allowing him or her to piece back together severed strands of text).” Would you say that this process extends to the experience of reading in general? If so, when? If not, why? (I’m having fun thinking about this…)

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