Review 1 on “A Book of the Book”

Review 1                                                                                                        Mackenzie Gans

The album titled A Book of the Book is unlike any book you have read before. It is at times a collection of writing, at times a series of seemingly un-connected articles, but always entertaining. A Book of the Book defies the typical notion of a book and presents some very interesting innovations that are quite different from the typically staid world of publishing. In this review, the author will summarize several articles and analyze them with an emphasis on how they differ from the norm.

First, there is the article “The Book as Machine” by Steve Cafferty and bpNichol. This piece focuses on how “there exists no standard definition of narrative…” (17). With a nod to the title, the authors write about the various ways a book can be made by a machine and how the visual rules of a book can be changed. One such change can be using a line or space to separate paragraphs (19). As well they cover 21 facts about books, pointing out many changes and innovations that authors have made to their works, in an effort to be unique.

The second article is called “The Book as Physical Object” by Keith A. Smith. In his commentary, Mr. Smith focuses on the many different forms that books have been produced in. He mentions several including a book as a fold-out map, blinds, Chinese fan, dos-a-dos and even transparent pages.

Thirdly there is “The Material Page” by Michael Davidson. This author focuses on the poetry side, and how it has changed. He mentions that the main reason for all the changes to the physical layout and appearance of poetry is because “mass-produced popular novels threatened to destroy the ‘aura’ of a work’s credibility” (71). The result was different “fonts, type sizes, white space” (71) to break up the “syntactic and semantic relationships” (71).

Finally there is “These Flames and Generosities of the Heart: Emily Dickson and the Illogic of Sumptuary Values” by Susan Howe. Howe writes how the uniqueness of Emily Dickson’s poems, with un-usual fonts and spacing, were edited when first published in the modern era and how this changed the reader’s relationship to the poems.

In conclusion, in a review of a couple of articles in A Book of the Book we can see how unique and varied the publishing world has become. We have learned how books, poems and any other printed material can change in many forms. The font, spacing, and white-space areas can fluctuate. As well the physical form of the book itself is subject to change, sometimes into many different ways un-imaginable to the common reader. A Book of the Book is an enlightening read, and an interesting window into the competitive world of publishing and what it takes to stay on the “cutting-edge”.


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