Sunday, March 8, 2015


So I read--or experienced--S by Doug Dorst. A concept for a book-like entertainment... thing, created by the director/producer J.J. Abrams.

S, which is like nothing else in the book store, is also packaged differently than most books. One will occasionally find a book shrink wrapped; typically to preserve its content from the damage caused by thumbing at the store, or to prevent damage to young and impressionable minds due to its racy content. S is shrink wrapped because its cover quick, look to the left is not the actual cover of the book. Nor is it a book jacket, or even one of those cool boxes called a slipcase, that you slide your book into, altho its probably most similar to the last one there. It is, more exactly, the packaging. Inside the packaging is the actual book. I'm not sure if you, dear reader, will consider some of the following spoilers, exactly, but I am about to discuss what is inside the package... ssshhhh The book itself is not called S, but The Ship of Theseus.

Herein begins the experience. See, The Ship of Theseus is not a real book, but a fully formed reproduction of a non-existent hardcover book from 1949, written by a non-existent author, complete with discoloration and foxing from age, stickers and stamps indicating that it belongs to a collegiate library. Again, non-existent library in a non-existent school. But within the margins of this book are hand-written notes, written by two people, who use these marginalia to communicate with one another. Among other things, they discuss the author of the book, who is the object of scholarly research for his literary efforts, and his politics.

As we read the "book" we also peer into the private correspondence of the two margin writers as they get to know each other and the mysterious author of the book. What they discover, and what we soon discover, is that the author's radicalism may still be alive today. What that means for the two note writers is what drives the experience forward. S is three or maybe four stories all running in series. The question is: how, or even if, these stories could be tied together.

Its not really a book, but a book is certainly part of it. If I were to try and deconstruct where the idea for this 'book' comes from, I would guess that it came from Abrams holding a book in his hand, maybe with some old forgotten marginal notes in it, and thinking to himself. This. This, is why we need traditional, analog books. This, the tactile, hands-on and hand-annotated 'real' thing can't just be a thing of the past. How much Abrams did to help with the actual writing, I don't know, but he isn't listed as a co-author. As a project, it is beautifully executed. If the effort wasn't put into the details, this project would have felt cheap and imitation. They did a nice job. Ironically, I don't think it will make a good library book. The reason for that should be obvious when you see it.

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