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Thompson, Norm - CultureNet@CapilanoU
CultureNet@CapilanoU

8 October 2009 · 21:55

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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