Reality Skimming
22Oct/11Off

Books as Canvas and 10 Things to Do Before I Die

Book Discards

Story of a dicarded book

The Stimulus Last time I was on the phone to ORU contributor Craig Bowlsby, who works in the 2nd hand book business, he mentioned seeing my books show up among the heaps of those getting cleared out or re-purposed. And I wondered: Does a book in this position still possess the power to connect two minds? Days later, while visiting with SFU colleague and dance-performance polymath Kathryn Ricketts at her office on SFU's Woodward's campus, I idly picked up a slim, hardcover book with a plain blue cover and began to read it while waiting for Kathryn to return from a chore. By the time she got back, I was hooked on Daniel Ehrenhaft's 10 Things to Do Before I Die.  I saw myself in think-too-much Nikki with the soulful eyes and wanted to know what guilt-by-self-assocation-troubled Ted Burger would make of his life: whether or not he'd been poisoned by french fries. When Kathryn returned, I learned the slim blue book was a discard destined for [defacement | creative re-purposing] (pick one) through its participation in some rather cool "book as canvas" activities. She loaned it to me and I devoured it before going to bed that night. It was a good read. I suppose I'll give it back to her because my life at the moment will only support a small book shelf. And who knows?  Maybe this particular copy of 10 Things to Do Before I Die has a better chance of snagging another reader waiting to be re-purposed than sitting on my book shelf. As to my own books, I can only hope they manage to brush minds with someone like me as they make their way through many hands. And that they end re-purposed rather than simply thrown out. Book as Canvas: Celebration or Insult?
Re-purposing books as canvas

Re-purposing books as canvas

I have mixed feelings about the whole phenomenon of the book as canvas. No creator can control the receiver's reaction to a creation, of course, but I find myself startled by a response that destroys a book's role as a vector of distilled thought. Think about it this way: could a visual artist be comfortable seeing beautiful prints covered in words that destroyed the artist's vision?  Of course, no one has to care how I or any other book-person feels about anything: which is possibly the point. Books have dominated too long, for reasons that were not always good, and they are feeling the lash of frustrated creativity from other quarters.  I do believe "defacing" books can be a loving act, like wearing a book out with re-reading or drawing illustrations in the margins, but as I understand it, the 'book as canvas' phenomenon doesn't typically encourage anyone to relate to the content. So I suppose I find the whole thing fascinating in much the same way as I do the Bodies Exhibition. Ultimately, whatever our feelings might be, it is silly to imagine every print book will be revered in a world awash in them. Re-purposing is a good idea: from second hand book stores, to door stops, to books as canvases. But I will assert this much: it wouldn't be fun to [deface | re-purpose] a book if there was no [magic | power] in them to lend a tinge of [trespass | empowerment] to the act. That much is true, I think: whether the [magic | power] belongs to the past or will continue into the future, and regardless of whether it has been exercised more for good or evil, overall. And perhaps the bigger questions are only bogging down in emotional enganglements with the medium of self-expression. But that's a topic for another post. :-)
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