by Jace Brittain
If your copy of Murder Most Serene is any indication, books are not inanimate objects. Your books especially seem to hum at revealing frequencies—Murder Most Serene couldn’t close its own covers around its collection of poisoned wives–ink and pages bloat and warp bleeding waterlogged and lurid. The deceptive cover—the broken promise of a T-Rex—of your Journey to the Center of the Earth bubbled up and made its own sheer protection obscure.
In the case of Murder Most Serene, I wonder whether its toxic insides are reflected in the cover or whether the insides could have only been so florid and sinister within this specific damaged vessel.
Why did Anselm Kiefer write text for the inside of these lead books when each is too heavy to lift? Individual pages weigh pounds and pounds, and he made sure to write in them. Maybe it’s the impossibility of approaching the texts as readers that draws us toward the content, toward wondering what must be inside his books. Beyond these shelves, Kiefer made an enormous number of books, many seemingly degrading or burnt simultaneously suggesting natural entropy and the books burned by the Nazis in fascist Germany. Drawn to the content’s mystery and the danger the written words seem to represent to others, clues might be found in the fraying bindings.
Jacqueline Rush Lee’s books resemble inner organs or natural formations and are illegible as texts, in some sense never were books, but what do they suggest about books as physical objects?
Genevieve Seille writes these books obsessed with their own scripts, cyphers, secret compartments full of glossolia—they require close reading, literal dissection, a thorough shake. Mysteries can be loosed from among these pages.
Dieter Roth ground up entire books and newspapers with fatty meat and giblets, squeezed the contents into sausage casing, and slapped covers or titles on the casings. Roth created a small library of his books, perhaps not easily digestible but consumable nonetheless. There’s a story about a kid who so loved a drawing sent to him by Maurice Sendak that he ate it. There should be a saying about the more than one ways to shred documents.
Paul Octavious approaches some kind of opposite of the axiom about judging a book by its cover—his focus seems entirely on the external, something revealed only in the grouping and range of colors of a stack of books and something resonant in the act of stacking. The content is suggested by its presence all at once: a jumbled montage of the book’s contained ideas projected all at once, a hypercollage.
Maybe literature and literaturwurst are created and notated and repackaged and stacked as a reminder that books are unable to sit still, that these are objects in motion, that these cosmic cubes are dangerous and can’t be contained.