Bathsheva's Bag

Stuff I'm into or not...speculations and ascribed motives and more...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Making Special--The Book as Art--A Personal Perspective

When I was younger, I read. For me, unable to hear most of the time, and subsequently left out of the family conversations, my only consolation was the book--at hand. I was included, I could partake in the conversation to be had. I debated in my head with Encyclopedia Brown--boy detective, when he challenged me to look for clues.  I could feel the crinkle of the paper against my fingers, as I carelessly turned the pages, ravenous for the solution. 

Sometimes, I would hide out under my bed, to escape the call to help with the dishes, or to get outside and play. My heart broke in that little room hidden away with Anne Frank or sloshed through the waters of Chesapeake Bay with the horses that swam ashore leaving that sinking Spanish  battalion or  I flew many times with Pegasus and Apollo in his daily chariot ride across the sky. Reading was and is my damnation, my salvation and everything. Not to channel Brad Pitt pitching Chanel, but regarding my books “wherever I go, there they are”.

I tote them, too many of them with me, whenever ever I go visiting, traveling etc...It gets burdensome. And truth be told, I hadn’t been doing a lot of reading, for a number of reasons. One reason being that  by the time that the end of the day rolls around, I’m just too spent. But, if I were to be honest, some of the allure of reading  was just gone--for me, and the truth was and I finally had to admit it,  my eyes at some point around or exactly on the day I turned 40--my eyes changed, they work better in the morning. And even with glasses, truth be told I  just hadn’t been that into reading for some time.

But, I like many, had put aside joyful reading for other pursuits. So some will argue that the joy of reading, is in the textual, the visual, the sensual feel of the book in hand, the way the paper feels, that your brain takes more in, that the read becomes a more satisfying chew, than with an e-reader. I always suspected that that would be the case. It is the main reason, I put off for so long, what was inevitable. But, necessity and function soon made the decision for me. I need to tote books around, I was tired of lugging everything and also, I have just simply run out of room for more bookshelves. No, I’m not ready to give away or trade my books. Maybe one day, but not now. 

Books on My iPad
So, eventually, I opted for an iPad over other e-readers, because it suited my gluttonous, ravenous sensitivities--to have it all.  I am not the only one--I am representative of many.

The digital book has changed the game. And while the print book will never go away, nor is the book as art, a new phenomenon. The coffee table book has been around forever, as well as  a child’s pop-up book. And yet, we do so see subtle yet distinct changes, in both form and function and volume.

So the book as a dispenser of information has essentially been turned over to the digital medium. Before when I would go book sailing--navigating uncharted territories--my approach to choice--was to blindly pick up any random book and open it and shut it three times--quickly glancing at a line or two. It was the feel and weight of the book in my hand, the font, and a word or a line here and there that would determine if this book in my hand was a “good read” or not. It never failed me. With the iPad, the samples are right there and they’re just not the same thing. With a click I have one, two three more options of what to read--without a thought just a click and satisfaction without the chew. The text manageability is there, the internal nightlight--the dictionary at my fingertips is there--all so neat and tidy and easy. I miss the awkwardness of trying to balance the big Oxford on my lap--looking up a word, while trying not to lose my place with Kafka. I read more now though. Function over form.

So, all of this leads us to eventually ask; If our need for information is sated by the book in digital form, where does this leave the print book?  And the answer is it leaves the print book grounded in the aesthetic. To move away from the concrete realm of cyber space, we have to land hard into the abstract world of art.  So now we ask, regarding the book as an object, a book, not literature, what is art?
Book As Art

So what is art? In order to determine what is art, Ellen Dissanayake, after recounting numerous art theories, that cover some art but certainly not the whole gamut, across the spectrum, comes up with the following. She says in order to come up with a viable art theory, we need to look for the common denominator that can be found in all art regardless of the genre or the medium, itself. The art theory Dissanayake comes up with falls under the category of adaptionist hypothesis. Which is a query into art as evolving. In doing  so, one has to take into account “1) Originality--aesthetic predisposition and the operations of ‘making special,’ [...] 2) Motivation--Uncertainty, emotional investment (“caring about”), and coping. [...] 3) Manifestation--the invention and functions of ceremonial ritual. [...]” (18-21)

Regarding her "making special" the Dissanayake says she, "claimed in that in all instances of this behavior, in all times and places, ordinary experiences (e.g. ordinary objects, movement, sounds, utterances, surrounding) is transformed, is made extraordinary." 

Another Example of Book as Art/Specialty Books
So like the Paleolithic cave paintings in southwestern France, serving not only as an homage
to our past, but as a frame of reference for the future, so shall the art book of today. Dissanayake says "human, more than other animals, use wits rather than instincts to address the problems of their lives..." (18)

Book Art
While print books have been selling less and big retailers such as Barnes and Noble order less for their in-store sales. The online digital book business is doing rather well. It should be noted that in recent years the coffee table book made an appearance here and there especially around the holiday season. However,  new to the market this season, are about at least fifteen new specialty and/or art/coffee table books within the last three weeks alone. Thus, pretty much attesting to the idea of Dissanayake's art theory, as art being this evolving and adapting form.

Building Stories by Chris Ware published October 2nd, 2012
The graphic novelist Chris Ware just came out with a graphic novel that comes in sections and has fold outs. This takes the graphic novel to a whole new level of art.

Vintage/Retro iPad?

The book vending machine is making a comeback!


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