Site Meter Peculiar Susceptibility: Book Binding

Friday, November 30, 2007

Book Binding

In Studies on Hysteria, Freud and Breuer discuss a mother who recorded her daughter's "fits" with supreme dedication. It made me wonder what kind of a book the mother would choose in which to write. Would the journal start on loose paper that she would then envelop between the pages of a book? I like the idea that, eventually, she would bind her own book, finding other people's creations inappropriate vessels in which to record the rants of her own creation. I've started a short series of poems within the Charcot manuscript that explore this.

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Books make things - words, objects, thoughts - precious. I opened my copy of Mrs. Dalloway to find a passage recently. Aaron had used the copy to study for his PhD exams. It is well-worn. We have both read it several times and it is bespeckled with lovely, combined marginalia. I turned to page 139 (something Aaron had marked with a post-it) and there he had layered in the single wing of a Luna Moth.

When I was a girl someone (my mother? my grand mother? Shandra and Michelle's mother? some book?) taught me to layer violets into the pages of books. I did so religiously. At that point though, really, all of the books were technically my parents'. There are still volumes I leaf through on visits to them - browned, flattened, dry former flowers flitting onto my lap. At a certain point, enamored with the local herb farm Caprilands, I began to layer in sprigs of herbs. The musty and earthy scents of those books are intoxicating.

Caprilands colored my imagination for some years. They had various gardens (one Shakespeare-themed!) surrounding the early 19th-century farmhouse in which they sold fresh and dried herbs, Victorian recipe books, flavored honeys. Cats and sheep and chickens wandered the grounds. We - I usually went with the twins - would end each visit with a cup of tea. I liked mine to have the petals of former flowers, some remnants of which would always drift free of the wire ball in which they steeped.

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I worry about what will happen when electronic devices become more popular than books. Will we lose what is intimate, what is precious, about reading and writing? There's a potentially bright side to this, though. As gadgets begin to replace paper, we will start to see people celebrating that filtered, flattened, and dried pulp. At the Paper/New England opening I had a quick chat with the lovely Michael Shortell about book art. They plan to exhibit some soon. I will be there. My heart will flutter a bit higher in my chest when I look at it.


Barb said...

Someone, I think it might have been Marshall McLuhan, said that individual technologies of media only become available as "ART" mediums after they have been superceded and made irrelevant for information delivery by newer media technologies. So the digital assault on books (although actually the assault goes back to radio and then TV) makes "Book Art" possible - makes it possible for us to appreciate the aesthetic qualities of books now that we are not preoccupied by the necessity of the information they contain.

Meghan Maguire Dahn said...

And just think of the way, too, that we fetishize/appreciate vintage books...everything from pulp paperback covers as art, to 19th century editions with uncut pages.

Call me Billy, from Connecticut. said...

I left the wing of the Luna Moth for you to find at some later date. Until I read your post, I'd forgotten about it. I hope it made you smile. The underlining, that was for me, because it thunders truthfully to me.

Your blog is wonderful.

Meghan Maguire Dahn said...

Oh, little morsels of magic!

I was wonderful to find that wing in that book.

Thanks, honey.