Tuesday, August 08, 2006
A word about book jackets & the question of how much is too much. A book that arrived this week – which appears to be an interesting, well crafted serial poem in two parts – came in a book jacket that makes use of 374 staples, 96 vertical staples (8 columns of 12 each) both front & back and 91 horizontal staples (7 columns of 13 each) again both front and back, thus 187 staples for the front, 187 for the back. All of the staples, I should note, are facing outward. Not one is stapled through a signature, which the book does not require since the inside cover is adorned with a number of magnetic strips, the sort you find on refrigerator magnets these days. It’s clever, to be certain, and ties into the theme of Justin Sirois’ Silver Standard, at least if we pretend that staples are made of silver. It also adds dramatically to the weight to this 40 page chapbook and ensures that if you try to put it into a tightly filled poetry bookcase, it will pretty inevitably destroy the jackets of the books to which it is next. It’s that last detail I can’t quite get my head around.
This is hardly the first such book of its kind. In 1989, Verso Press brought out An Endless Adventure…An Endless Passion…An Endless Banquet: A Situationist Scrapbook, using sandpaper covers and talking explicitly about the desire to destroy its immediate neighbors on your bookshelf. I own that one too. Sirois’ volume is likewise destined not to sit in a bookcase, but on top of one, alongside An Endless Adventure, but also, unless I clean it up, some cobwebs & a box for software that I haven’t used in ten years.
Admittedly there aren’t a lot of copies in play here – the press run is just 100 – but one might think that the function of publication was to expand one’s reach, to make the work available. I know that there are counter-arguments possible – I’m thinking of Jack Spicer’s adamant refusal to distribute the magazine J east of the Berkeley city limits – but if Sirois’ work is part of a militant isolationism like Spicer’s, I don’t see the evidence. In fact, tho, the work itself does remind me somewhat of Spicer, from its dedication to Alan Greenspan to its appropriation of pop culture to ends that it might feel so comfortable with:
in every space station & hull, barn & back yard
let this tone mobilize youths into a dance frenzy of freaking
in every spa & apartment, basement & brothel
let this beep rock the souls of their impressionable feet
in every pub & public park, club & gymnasium
let this one ring rule them all
we it to sound like a Christmas tree & an Abrams tank
avoiding cattle & camels through a farmer’s field, we’ll sample
a diamond stud dangling lonely from one brown lobe & filter it
through moon rocks & beveled flange, we’ll make all the
interns go to the zoo for the afternoon so they can mic the
mandrills, antelopes & leopards, run stampedes through
pedals of twanging sitar
Where it differs from Spicer is in its absence of pessimism & nastiness, tho I wouldn’t say that the alternative is optimism or sweetness exactly, more of a hyper glee that’s curiously impersonal. This is interesting stuff & more than 100 people should get a chance to read it. However, I think that 100 is itself an optimistic number, simply because the cover will stop at least half from either reading the book or, at the least, keeping it around very long to attack the rest of the book collection. This I find problematic & puzzling.