All About S. – Part 1

One of the most interesting books that came out in 2013, for me, was S, a novel conceptualized by J.J. Abrams (yes, the movie director / producer), and written by Doug Dorst.

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But S isn’t your ordinary, everyday novel.  Released at the end of October, S is the latest project of J.J. Abrams, giving tribute, perhaps, to the written word and the physical form of books.  Indeed, this is not the kind of book that you can download and read on your Kindle.

The hardbound book comes in a black box with a big calligraphic S on the front, and sealed with a stamp bearing the author’s and creator’s name. Inside the box  is a book called Ship of Theseus written by V.M. Straka. Opening the book, it’s easy to figure out that  there’s more to it than just the story of  Ship of Theseus; the margins of the pages of the book is chockful of scribbles by two different people – messages to each other and their personal notes on the text.

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The book is the property of a graduate student and is filled with his personal effects tucked between the pages – typewritten documents, newspaper clippings, handwritten letters on stationery, notes scribbled on cafe napkins, postcards from exotic countries, bookmarks, and all sorts of good stuff – and that’s just from opening random pages.  Who knows what else I’d find when I actually read the book.

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The novel is really 2 or 3 stories in one – the novel, Ship of Theseus, the story of the author, V.M. Starka, and the story of the two students which unfold in the scribbled notes on the margins and in the different bits of paper and cards between the pages.

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This book puts one in mind of Nick Bantock‘s beautiful epistolary series, Griffin and Sabine.  But unlike Griffin and Sabine with it’s carefully glued postcards and letters, S is a messy, seemingly unstructured collection of this and that – perfect for people who love reading other people’s notes on library books, or for people who love going through other peoples’ letters (secretly).  S is really a literary voyeur’s dream come true.

My biggest concern is how to go about reading this book.  Am I supposed to read the “official” story of Ship of Theseus first, then go through the book again to read the scribbled notes and the different things between the pages, or do I read the text and the scribbled notes and other things all at once?  I have no idea, but it will be a lot of fun trying to figure it out.

Next post:  How to read JJ Abrams’ “S.”

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