Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Book Art, thoughts.

My friend Jo recently wrote an interesting blog post about books, book art and unusual ways of playing with text and presentation. It's made me think. I'm a lit geek, book nerd, whatever you want to call me. I own  a ridiculous number of books, I've read an even more ridiculous number. I love books. I loathe ebooks, the kindle is the devil as far as I'm concerned. There is something about the physicality of books that adds to the pleasure of reading them. The heft, the smell, the texture of the pages. I have issues, I know.
Most of the books I've read have been fairly conventional. The way the text is presented, the narrative structure (whether it starts at the beginning or the middle or even works backwards). I've studied book history, read dozens of books of all different kinds, and continue to be fascinated by them.
A few have done clever things with the text, The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall and House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski are two that spring to mind. There are definitely others out there.
Then there are those books that are more like art than text, like A Humument by Tom Phillips, which is a Victorian novel reappropriated as art.
Graphic novels often alter the way you expect to be shown things, playing with words and images, blurring the boundaries between text and illustration in a playful, creative way.
Some of the oldest books I own are now more object than text, rendered less than readable by age and decrepidation. I won't let anyone handle my copy of Where The Rainbow Ends by Clifford Mills as it's not only ancient but out of print and therefore irreplacable. It does mean I don't get to read it, the spine has started to give way and is being held together by librarian tape and hope. I like old books, but they tend to be more keepsake than readable text, residing on bookshelves never to be read because I'm too scared to open them. I repair my books, sticking them together with my fingers crossed the tape will be enough until I have to crack out the brown paper and cover them to hold covers and spines together. Maybe I'll make my own cover art.
I also have some lavishly illustrated books, my mother's copy of The Water Babies by Charles Kinsley is gorgeously drawn and rendered in woozy watercolours. I've not seen another copy like it. I'd love to own a copy of the original Tenniel Alice illustrations or Arthur Rackham's Peter Pan watercolours.
I'm out of shelf space so maybe I'll have to start exhibiting my books as art and not literature.

*Pictures from found via Google*

Charles Mozley illustration from the inside cover of The Water Babies
Found via Google

Arthur Rackham - Peter Pan
Found via Google

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