“A Book of a Book” Review

Jerome Rothenburg and Steven Clay’s, A Book of a Book, is a collection of essays from well known writers explaining their perception of what a book is.  There are a plethora of interpretations of the book and what they believe the principles of it are.

Steve McCaffery and bpNichol’s partial essay “The Book as a Machine,” explains the fundamental format of the words on a page.  These authors go into great depth and creatively manifest how sentence structure is formed and how it should be read but depends on the format of the sentences.  Their essay also states that there are exceptions in which poetry may sometimes break the boundary of this format.  They go on to explain the differences between these two forms, “the left-hand margin is always a starting point, the right-hand margin a terminal, neither of which is determined by the randomness of page size but rather by the inner necessity of compositional process.”  While McCaffery and Nichol use the idea of formatting narrative on to a page.  F.T. Marinetti’s partial essay “Destruction of Syntax—Imagination Without Stings—Words-In-Freedom 1913” reveals the hilarity in a section of his essay entitled “Death of  a Free Verse” where he states the form of free verse poetry pushes the limit of the author in question as they break the traditional formats of writing.

Unlike McCaffery and Nichol who explicitly explain that the writer is restricted from breaking the boundaries of the page; the held together format and the left to right reading pace the reader endures.  Marinetti, on the other hand, explains to the reader that the form of free verse is dying and he explains that free verse should lead “the imagination without strings[,][…] absolute freedom of images or analogies, expressed with unhampered words and with no connecting strings of syntax and with no punctuation.”

Straying away from the strict page formatting and breaking of syntax, Thomas A. Vogler’s essay, “When a Book is Not a Book” was a confusing piece.  He explains the physicality of the book as being a “book object” which the reader would think it means that the book is a physical object not utilized as a container of knowledge or fiction.  Vogler goes on to explain that some art forms that utilize books are not considered books but just mere objects.  He poorly explains his idea and jumps constantly from idea to idea.  This inconsistency causes confusion for the reader and cannot understand what Vogler tries to explain.

McCaffery, Nichol, Marinetti and Vogler, each have a distinguished opinion on what they believe the formation and utilization of a book truly seems to them.  Their conceptions are different from one another, but in this anthology it fits together for the reader to take on different views of the book.  Rothenburg and Clay chose essays that are consistent and are creatively written to pick the mind of the reader and utilize the information to formulate their own assumption on what the book truly is to them.

–Stephanie Moreno


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