“What is a book? A book is an experience. . . . A book starts with an idea. And ends with a reader” (Chen and Meador).
With so many variations of what we call “book,” it would be next to impossible to argue what a book is. However, Chen and Meador’s conception of book might be a starting point.
As I set out to accomplish my assignment, the first question I had to answer is “What goes on the pages?” This is the beginning of the experience. As the bookmaker/co-writer/pseudo-publisher, the various elements that I needed to account were both shaped by my ideas and shaped my ideas. One element was settled for me: the book would be in the style of accordion folds. With that settled, I began to contemplate what the accordion could provide in terms of presenting content. Of all the ideas I considered, I found that the accordion folds could communicate something about the way we as people interact with each other. We often keep ourselves closed off, specifically that inner self, but there are opportunities to open our inner most selves. This is the experience I wanted to communicate.
The next task was to decide on the content. Given the intimacy of revealing the inner self, I wanted the content to invoke emotional responses in the reader. Poetry seems to capture subjective thought and emotion in a way that no other content can. What’s more, I had decided to voice that which goes unsaid. Ulises Carrión reflects on the connection between poetry and print:
“Poems are songs, the poets repeat. But they don’t sing them. They write them. Poetry is to be said aloud, they repeat. But they don’t say it aloud. They publish it. The fact is, that poetry, as it occurs normally, is written and printed, not sung and spoken, poetry. And with this, poetry has lost nothing. On the contrary, poetry has gained something: a spatial reality that the so loudly lamented sung and spoken poetries lacked” (2-3).
What other form of communication could so very well capture the intimate and suffering inner self? The decision of content is just as much an experience as that which I want readers to undergo. The small idea I had, that I wanted to communicate the closed off inner self open up, was now being modified by the content I had decided to use. My book, Unspoken, would attempt to communicate the suffering of the victims of suicide. We are always surprised to hear of someone attempting or committing such a tragedy. “They seemed so happy. I never thought i’d be them,” we say. Mellisa Paiz opens her poem reflecting how true this experience is from the other person: “Look into my eyes and tell me what you see, / in front of you, in front of the world, and wherever I go, / I’ll plaster a smile on my face so no one will know.”
Turning my attention to the materiality of the book, I needed to reflect these experiences to my audience. To reflect the deception of the outer self, I chose a floral pattern paper for the covers. Flowers also have a communicate aspects of death, but anyone sees Unspoken lying around would likely not expect the subject of the book to reflect on suicide. For the pages, I chose to use black paper for its somber tone. Here is where materiality affected my book in a manner less out of my control. The paper available to me was dimensionally 12” x 15”. To get the most out of the material without too much waste, I used 4”x4” squares as my page dimensions. This affected the font size of my book as well. I didn’t want the book to have a large depth so I chose to limit the pages. I used a yellow background to print my text. The choice of yellow was aesthetic as it matched some of the tones in the floral covering. The material of the book was affected by my idea, but what was available also affected what I chose.
Creating Unspoken has indeed been an experience. However, the process is incomplete. Until people read Unspoken, the book is incomplete. It is only when other people experience my production it may be called “book.”
Carrión, Ulises. “The New Art of Making Books.” Kontexts, no. 6-7, Center for Book Arts, 1975.
Chen, Julie and Meador Clifton. How Books Work. Flying Fish Press, 2011.