encyclopedic post : history meets mail.

{dancer with a bouquet of flowers : edgar degas}
About two years ago, I moved into a room of a hostel. Aside from sharing the kitchen and bathroom with backpackers and all the rampant earwigs brought by autumn, I didn't mind living there. It was a free place for me to be. (Plus I met my husband shortly afterward and spent most nights at his house.) When I moved in, though, during that dead dark of cold winter, the room was still being used as a storage closet. The hostel itself wasn't open yet.

What I remember most about moving junk loads into the room across the hall are the antique encyclopedias, burnt black at the edges and disintegrating. I flipped through their pages, their amazing pictures. Visions of framed word art and collage danced in my head. Alas, the owner of these books--whose previous house burnt down as the paper houses with shoddy electrical work are wont to do here--planned to restore the books. They belonged to her deceased father, who was a doctor on Tierra del Fuego. I handled her heavy heirlooms with care, and didn't nab any of the cool pictures I oh so wanted. I wrote about this ages ago here.

Fast forward... > hostel opens + the books are moved out to the weather, supine to Patagonia's beatings no joke > come end of summer, earwigs hatch; they invade everything, can't lift a sponge or touch a towel without shaking one or five out > the cleaning woman battles them every morning, crushes them underfoot, sweeps out their carcasses, cleans the now overgrown backyard + starts throwing away earwig-infested encyclopedias > I save as many as I can carry and stow them in multiple bags so the tijeretas don't crawl into bed with me at night. They really do that!


{another degas interlude (after the bath, woman drying her nape);
why? because the next package someone receives from me is from the degas page}

Now I use the pages to wrap presents. And every time I send a piece of mail wrapped in encyclopedia, I lament not mentioning (on the card already snug inside the package) where the paper came from. I imagine someone finding the book destruction offensive. Now I realize, the recipient might be scared to touch said package with all my tijereta rantings, but they're clean I promise!

And yet... there's some artful book maiming out there. Take Brian Dettmer's book sculptures for instance. Only a true logophile would create this masterpiece from Webster's Dictionary...

{i say it's synchronicity: webster two point oh}
Not that my ripping out pages and taping them to boxes is artful, but I do like doing it. And playing with the serendipity of the pages as they open themselves up to be torn. 

{anticipate the comfort : the new modern medical counselor : by brian dettmer}
OK, there's a lot of innuendo here, I hadn't anticipated. Not sure if you're catching it; the subconscious is a marvelous poetic thing. I think it's better to just end with some questions...

How do you feel about writing in your books? Or altering them in some way?

19 comments:

Škorčica said...

I love books, I respect them, but they are alive, they can change their mission or appearance sometimes - it's good to communicate with them in such way! :)

LatteLisa said...

I always write in my books, except the really fancy ones; only my name there on the title page.

Claire Kiefer said...

Definitely write in my books, and definitely think it's okay to deconstruct books for the sake of art. I can't imagine any author would object to that. My very favorite art is art that incorporates text . . . though I guess that's no surprise.

Scientific Housewife said...

That is so interesting!

Ren- Lady Of The Arts said...

I used to write notes in my books but then I relised I was exposing too much ofmmyself in these notes- I now use tabs and recopy notes, thoughts, and quotes. The exposure is still there but now it is hidden like a puzzle unfinished-
Love your story about the books-
I hate earwigs- a lot!

Dawn said...

I like underlining and making notes in my books. I think I see a good book as part of me and I share in all it says.
(I just wouldn't lend the book out afterwards:)

Signe said...

Hihi, how silly is it that a two way ticket is MORE expensive than a one way ticket? :)

Either way you will get home and I get my Cas home and that is all that matters! And both is pretty darn romantic if you ask me ;)

kelli g. { bug miscellany } said...

i really love what your first commentor wrote, and i couldn't agree more.

:)

Robin said...

Having been the recipient of one of your beautifully wrapped packages (and you did explain in the note inside where the pages come from) I can attest that your upcycling of these lost pages is an art unto itself. I still have the packaging on my coffee table... trying to figure out away to re-use/display it.

And I never write in books, except my name in the flyleaf of the ones I keep. I also feel terrible if I start a book and don't finish it -- like I am abandoning someone else's child.

Kristin Hjellegjerde said...

Beautiful post.
Nobody can destroy the spirit of an adventurous soul!

Krystal said...

Oh Heather, this is such a cool story. I feel fine with writing in my books - I never want to get rid of them and I love the thought of flipping through them someday to see what I've done. On another note, I read a blog of a guy who does art work on book pages: ex: http://red-handed.blogspot.com/2010/11/will-we-ever-find-someone-to-make-us-do.html

Diana Mieczan said...

I also make notes in my books and I think its ok to do that as its something personal and adds to the whole rutale..Kisses,sweetie

Diana Mieczan said...

rituale:)

Mystica said...

The only book I've written on is my first Pride and Prejudice which I did for O Level text for literature! I love that book and read my scribblings and notes still.

Lindsey said...

I've seen those sculptures and they are amazing!!!!

I respect books, but I also respect that there are times when they are no longer useful in their original purpose and can serve another way. The wrapping paper is an awesome idea.

MarchMusings said...

I try not to write in books unless I'm sure I'm going to keep the book with me forever.

Jude said...

I do write in my books if they're beloved ones I've had a while. I also love to copy out quotes I've seen in books.

Enjoyed your book story and also think it's perfectly ok to deconstruct them for the sake of art (though deconstructing a rare, priceless book is another story! :))

amy@flyingakite.blogspot.com said...

I love the flowing of words.
You're a beautiful soul.


sweet kisses,

hope to hear from you ^_^

http://flyingakite.blogspot.com

Nicolette said...

I'm all for the writing in and deconstruction of books and literature. It's not the pages of the book that are sacred, it's the ideas and knowledge they possess. Why not share that with others in untraditional ways? Cheers!

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