The Book (Strange and) Beautiful (2)

I write, below, that ‘the vast majority of writers and publishers are quite happy to see their books transformed from edition to edition‘. It would be churlish to argue with this statement, oh so very churlish. Writers will go on claiming that they ‘believe’ in the book as an object, and that they ‘strive’ to make their books correspond to a specific idea, but the truth remains that compromises will – and do – happen. Publishers are not terribly interested in such petty details. They would rather get the words right. The ‘rest’ can follow.

Of course, there are always exceptions. A handful of writers have been able to produce books according to their own particular (if not profound) specifications. And what specifications! Late last year I wrote of the octagonal and the triangular novel. Elsewhere I may have mentioned the amazing efforts of Mr Siegfried Wassinger, a Belgian writer, to imbue his books with the most delicate scents. Every page of Wassinger’s books is enthused with a different smell, creating the ultimate literary olfactory experience; one which readers of all nationalities can enjoy, as Wassinger personally oversees each and every foreign language edition of his work.

The experimentation doesn’t end here. For other writers – Luis Garatua, to name just one – the texture of the page is all important. ‘I will only print my stories on the roughest paper,’ announced Garatua two years ago. And so it was. His latest collection of tales, Out of the Congregation and into the Choir, published only last week, was printed on something akin to sandpaper. Needless to say, this affected the quality of the stories immeasurably. The words are not all, not at all.


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