Monday, January 28, 2013

An Invasive Procedure

Shelly finds it foolish, but I've often wished quality of writing had an effect on gravitational force between a book and the Earth. Roald Dahl's skinny paperbacks would take both hands to lift. Tolkien, Dickens, and Hugo would be stuck at a reading table or moved with a crane. On the other hand, a certain science-fiction novel would float away to clutter up Earth orbit along with erotica and most children's books. There is nothing like great writing, and this one was nothing like great writing. The book was a train wreck from which I couldn't turn away because it was the work of an established professional. I lost track of the bland, generic plot as the dialog and actions of the characters competed to one-down each other.

Later, after the memory was replaced by better stories, I was itching to fulfill a childhood espionage fantasy of hollowing out a really big book. What I'd done in middle school was passable, but if I was going to try again, I wanted KGB or National Treasure quality. Hoping for some photos and an idea or two for my literary hidey-hole, I found the website of Heather Rivers. She provided a humorously narrated peek into an artistic, well-practiced, type-A personality approach. Looking for a scribbled checklist on lined paper, I'd found a great read, all the more enjoyable for the serendipity.

And I knew just the book for the project. In a box for the thrift store, I saw it. My full-body shudder of recollected revulsion gave way to an angelic choir upon my ears and celestial illumination twinkling around the dust jacket.

Invasive Procedures, by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston.

Normally, I would do this name-free. I prefer to praise publicly and critique quietly. But Card can take it, and I really hated this book for which I'd paid a new hardcover price and expected to love. Look at the reviews on if you think I'm being harsh. Besides, my plug for the rest of his stuff is thumbs way up and I'm waiting geek-fan style for Ender's Game movie tickets.

I gathered my implements of art/torture, and Ms. Rivers instructed:

Take a minute and appreciate the book you're about to totally destroy. Go on, feel a little guilty. Remind yourself that true art is ephemeral and move on.”

Appreciate, check.
Remind, check.
Guilt, check. Guilt because I hadn't done this before reading the book.

The outside.

This first photo was taken after the job was complete. My wish for a correlation between physical mass and literary quality took a step toward fulfillment. It's strange to heft a book that's a third it's expected weight, but still solid and inflexible.

The inside.

See all the great book titles on the left page? See the cool title page design on the right? That's the place to stop reading this book.

Along the bottom edge, a gap is visible a few pages down. That's where the loose preface pages end and the bibliocrypt begins. Wanna see it?

Ah. That's better!

Heather's instructions at this stage of fabrication:

Apply an unholy amount of glue to the inside of the book, and to the ½" border of the first page. Really, go nuts! If it doesn't look like a six year old was responsible when you're done, you screwed up.”

The clean lines of the excised portions were very pleasing to me, especially compared with my previous attempts as a kid. Some waviness is seen at the interior north wall and the bottom of the right page. My glue mixture was too thin.

Don't think for a moment the synergistic irony of making this book useful, my editing of it, and the title were unnoticed or un-relished.

The only advice I'd add to Heather's is this: Don't use a scalpel with a plastic handle. They aren't designed to take the necessary force. My project almost got gory, and blood-spattered books don't blend well in most bookshelves.

The parting words of Ms. Rivers:

This excessively photographic guide to hollowing out a book is brought to you by Heather Rivers, who begs forgiveness for her sins against bookdom and would offer to the appalled that her book-lovin' karma is still in great shape after having spent two years of college working in a rare book preservation lab preserving priceless treasures that they might continue to be celebrated by book fetishists like you for many years to come.”

Thank Heather by visiting her site.

Tell her Derick sent you. She'll have no idea who you're talking about.

1 comment:

  1. I'll be camping out in line for the Ender movies too, but I agree, this particular OSC was a prime candidate for reinvention.

    You did a beautiful job (my first attempt was far sloppier). Keep up the good work!