Weekly Spotlight On: Books with Unique + Unusual Formats

Have you heard the news about J.J. Abrams new book, S? Here is a link to an article that shows you what the inside of the book looks like: http://bit.ly/1bZgzk8 Also, The New Yorker recently published an interview with Abrams and his co-author: http://nyr.kr/1edhqz1

Pretty neat, huh? It’s a tribute to the printed word, in a world where we often digest electronic materials, like e-books, online newspaper articles, and hey – even this blog. It is a very hands-on, tangible experience. You also can not just whip through the pages like a normal novel  – each page has to be carefully written and digested.

I’ve included a few books that have similar components to S, books that have margin notes, pop out pieces, and tucked-away postcards.

Feel the nostalgia of your nose in a book, and check out some of these interesting reads!

S by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst

s_abrams“One book. Two readers. A world of mystery, menace, and desire.

A young woman picks up a book left behind by a stranger. Inside it are his margin notes, which reveal a reader entranced by the story and by its mysterious author. She responds with notes of her own, leaving the book for the stranger, and so begins an unlikely conversation that plunges them both into the unknown.

The book: “Ship of Theseus,” the final novel by a prolific but enigmatic writer named V.M. Straka, in which a man with no past is shanghaied onto a strange ship with a monstrous crew and launched onto a disorienting and perilous journey.

The writer: Straka, the incendiary and secretive subject of one of the world’s greatest mysteries, a revolutionary about whom the world knows nothing apart from the words he wrote and the rumors that swirl around him.

The readers: Jennifer and Eric, a college senior and a disgraced grad student, both facing crucial decisions about who they are, who they might become, and how much they’re willing to trust another person with their passions, hurts, and fears.

“S.,” conceived by filmmaker J. J. Abrams and written by award-winning novelist Doug Dorst, is the chronicle of two readers finding each other in the margins of a book and enmeshing themselves in a deadly struggle between forces they don’t understand, and it is also Abrams and Dorst’s love letter to the written word.” – Summary

Building Stories by Chris Ware

building stories“Presents an illustrated tale, told in various books and folded sheets, about the residents in a three-story Chicago apartment building, including a lonely single woman, a couple who are growing to despise each other, and an elderly landlady.

With the increasing electronic incorporeality of existence, sometimes it’s reassuring—perhaps even necessary—to have something to hold on to. Thus within this colorful keepsake box the purchaser will find a fully-apportioned variety of reading material ready to address virtually any imaginable artistic or poetic taste, from the corrosive sarcasm of youth to the sickening earnestness of maturity—while discovering a protagonist wondering if she’ll ever move from the rented close quarters of lonely young adulthood to the mortgaged expanse of love and marriage. Whether you’re feeling alone by yourself or alone with someone else, this book is sure to sympathize with the crushing sense of life wasted, opportunities missed and creative dreams dashed which afflict the middle- and upper-class literary public (and which can return to them in somewhat damaged form during REM sleep).” – Summary

A pictographic listing of all 14 items (260 pages total) appears on the back, with suggestions made as to appropriate places to set down, forget or completely lose any number of its contents within the walls of an average well-appointed home. As seen in the pages of The New YorkerThe New York Times and McSweeney’s Quarterly ConcernBuilding Stories collects a decade’s worth of work, with dozens of “never-before-published” pages (i.e., those deemed too obtuse, filthy or just plain incoherent to offer to a respectable periodical).

House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski

house of leaves“Years ago, when House of Leaves was first being passed around, it was nothing more than a badly bundled heap of paper, parts of which would occasionally surface on the Internet. No one could have anticipated the small but devoted following this terrifying story would soon command. Starting with an odd assortment of marginalized youth — musicians, tattoo artists, programmers, strippers, environmentalists, and adrenaline junkies — the book eventually made its way into the hands of older generations, who not only found themselves in those strangely arranged pages but also discovered a way back into the lives of their estranged children. Now, for the first time, this astonishing novel is made available in book form, complete with the original colored words, vertical footnotes, and newly added second and third appendices. The story remains unchanged, focusing on a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story — of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams.” – Summary

Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence by Nick Bantock

griffin sabine“It all started with a mysterious and seemingly innocent postcard, but from that point nothing was to remain the same in the life of Griffin Moss, a quiet, solitary artist living in London. His logical, methodical world was suddenly turned upside down by a strangely exotic woman living on a tropical island thousands of miles away. Who is Sabine? How can she “see” what Griffin is painting when they have never met? Is she a long-lost twin? A clairvoyant? Or a malevolent angel? Are we witnessing the flowering of a magical relationship or a descent into madness? This stunning visual novel unfolds in a series of postcards and letters, all brilliantly illustrated with whimsical designs, bizarre creatures, and darkly imagined landscapes. Inside the book, Griffin and Sabine’s letters are to be found nestling in their envelopes, permitting the reader to examine the intimate correspondence of these inexplicably linked strangers. This truly innovative novel combines a strangely fascinating story with lush artwork in an altogether original format.” – Summary

***There is also a book called The Unfortunates by B S Johnson which was published in 1969. It does not appear to be available within the SWAN library system, but you could purchase a used copy here, or ask if it is available via inter-library loan: http://www.amazon.com/The-Unfortunates-B-S-Johnson/dp/0811217434

This book is known as an experimental book in a box, with 27 sections that you can read in any order. The plot from Wikipedia is as follows:

“A sportswriter is sent to a small city (Nottingham) on an assignment, only to find himself confronted by ghosts from his past. As he attempts to report an association football match, memories of his friend, a tragic victim of cancer, haunt his mind.

The city visited remains unnamed, however the novel contains an accurate description of Nottingham landmarks, its streetscape, and its environment in 1969, with additional recallings of 1959. The football ground in the novel is obviously Nottingham Forest’s City Ground, from whence the fictional football club ‘City’ comes.”

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