My Handy Book

I would say that my object is a book. I can open it, shut it, and read from it. I believe that it is a pseudo book because it has these qualifications, but it also doesn’t follow conventions of a what a typical book is or should be. I chose the material, human skin, that I did because it seemed both very creative, but also the most readily available, since someone I knew was sitting with me at the time. Artistic materials aren’t very easy to find on our campus unless you are a student of an artistic major, therefore, unless I want to drive and buy materials, I will have to scour what I have at my disposal. With a lot more planning it’s possible that I could have used scrap paper for this book, following the qualifications of a book more closely. But that too would have been difficult, as I would have had to have gotten lucky and had a printer malfunction in some way to score unwanted and used paper. So that left me with either using plain computer paper, which I have used for the past couple of projects, or get a little more creative. I tried to think more like our author who speaks about “a great variety of formats that can carry the name ‘book'” (146). I read the prompt again, read the “human skin” part, and I found my material.

Now, you might be wondering, who can read it if it’s on someone’s hand? But that’s the best part, when you write things down in this way, you get to then decide who gets to see it and who doesn’t. This means that the only people that get to see this “book” are those that are open to “specific affordances of the book” (147) such as the idea that it doesn’t necessarily have to look or feel like a book to be one. The poetry that I used on this person’s hand is in the public domain, just like someone’s hand would be. It is a poem about the thought that we are all temporary, and I thought to use this for several reasons. One, is that the piece is written in pen, so it will very easily wash away, two, that, although a morbid thought, the hand itself is also a temporary thing, and three, that books in general are temporary in the ways that they can so easily be destroyed.

© Emily Daniels, “Book Object” Creative/Critical Response 1, 2019.

3 thoughts on “My Handy Book”

  1. “Who can read it if it’s on someone’s hand? But that’s the best part, when you write things down in this way, you get to then decide who gets to see it and who doesn’t.” This is so true–unless you show someone what’s on your hand, they’ll never get to see the contents of your poem. In a sense, it has the privacy of a journal. Anyone can see you have a journal, but the only people who get to see it are the ones you permit (hopefully!). I liked your point that it can open/close like a codex and that you can write on it, too. You put a neat twist on this project!


  2. Oh, I’m enjoying your post so much, all the surprising insights, all the more surprising for their simplicity! First, I admire your very good point about the functional metaphor between book and hand: “I can open it, shut it, and read from it.” Who would have noticed that the basic defining actions of book and inscribed hand were the same! (I would add that both a hand and book can “grab” you, maybe – how far can we take this?)
    Finally, your reflection on public vs. private content is really engaging. The 1966/1996 art films The Pillow Book explores the body-as-book in terms of, among other things, how the author can be selective about a private intended reader (if you haven’t seen that movie, it might be an interesting one to watch…though note that it’s a bit racy.) That film also explores the ephemeral nature of the text (it washes off, it soaks in), which can’t but extend to a meditation on our own physical mortality. Such rich territory you’ve located here! Wonderful work!


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