Tag Archives: “A Book of the Book”

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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Review of Rothenberg and Clay’s A Book of the Book: Some Works & Projections about the book & writing

Jerome Rothenberg and Steven Clay’s “A Book of the Book: Some Works & Projections about the book & writing” is a collection of essays and articles by noted writers that argue for and against whether a book can even be considered a book. It asks what makes one so sure they are in fact reading a book? Is it the number of pages? The Font? The Content? It questions the criteria that outlines what a book is.

To prevent the reader from becoming lost in the many fascinating, confusing, and sometimes frustrating opinions expressed through the many essays and articles in the collection Rothenberg and Clay divided the works in to four sections: “Pre-Faces”, “The Opening of the Field”, “The Book is as Old as Fire & Water”, “The Book To Come”. These sections combine to show the fact that the book is still to this day without a clear definition.

Rothenberg and Clay’s presentation of this collection is revealing to the intangible nature of the book’s definition. They also explore the difficulty defining writing, “IN THE Beginnings of our research into narrative we ran up against the inescapable fact tat there exists no standard definition of narrative in the sense that writers seem to use the word.”  They further dive into the difficulty in defining writing in the section titled “The Book To Come”. It opens the reader to concepts that far exceed traditional guidelines of what the book and writing are in the present day. “Notes On A Humument”, by Tom Phillips, explores new possibilities of what the book and writing can be, “I merely scored out unwanted words with pen and ink. It was not long before the possibility became apparent of making a better unity of words and image, intertwined as in a mediaevil miniature.” The artwork presented in this piece is similar to if a child was to draw a picture over a page of a book and only leave a few words still legible. This Artwork could be the writing of the future and content of the future book.

In Thomas A. Vogler’s, “When a Book is Not a Book”, the concept of what constitute a book is furthered explored. Allow it is a confusing and disorientating essay it does make the reader ask the question whether a book is a psychical object or the embodiment of knowledge? This essays combined with the others in the collection create an endless stream of possibilities of what the book and writing really is to the reader.

Rothenberg and Clay’s collection in “A Book of the Book: Some Works & Projections about the book & writing” draws from literature, anthropology, and avant-garde art to break down and then rebuild the understanding of the book and writing. It is a intriguing read and eye opening experience to the possibilities of writing and art that have yet to be explored by the masses.

-Norm Thompson

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“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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When A Book Is Not A Book?

Mike Stilkey's Grey Cat Creeping

Mike Stilkey's Grey Cat Creeping

If that person declares it a book; it is a book! If they do not, it is not.  Definitions are not ageless laws, but current understanding.  They grow with usage through insight and error.  We extend our knowledge, as well as our false assumptions, and both of these change the way we think.  Our definitions evolve; they are not cut in stone.

Keith A. Smith

From A Book of the Book: Some Works & Projections About The Book & Writing

A Year 2 CultureNet core course, students taking English 214: Technology and Culture are currently diving into Jerome Rothenberg and Steven Clay’s A Book of the Book – the deliciously fat and varied anthology published by Granary Books.  Their first week of readings complemented by an afternoon examining some of the more inventive recent issues of McSweeney’s (with particular appreciation reserved for Issues 16 and 19) and the generation of draft manifesto for the 21st century (after reading F.T. Marinetti’s “Destruction of Syntax”).   Next week the work of Tom Phillips is up for consideration along with Thomas A. Vogler’s “When A Book Is Not A Book”.  If the animated classroom discussion from this week is anything to go by, there will be nearly thirty animated blog entries going up next week offering extended meditations on books, machines, and books that are not books! And if we were in Denver tonight, we could be checking out Mike Stilkey’s books-but-not-books book sculptures and yet further exploring all that a book can do.


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