If you haven’t see this magnificent book yet – and chances are, even if you come across it in a bookstore, it’s going to be shrinkwrapped & boxed up out of sheer necessity – it is essentially a slipcased faux-library book of a fictional novel called Ship of Theseus by V.M. Straka. Inside, however, is a meta-literary treasure trove unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Within the margins of this fake novel from 1949 is a handwritten conversation between two people working to uncover the truth behind the novel itself, as well as its mysterious author. So there’s the book itself – Ship of Theseus – and then there’s the ongoing dialogue between these two other readers. Almost complete brain overload already. Then, stuffed inside the book at key moments are postcards, faded photographs, handwritten notes, letters, telegrams, newspaper clippings. The magnitude of the imagination behind this and the unheard-of publishing undertaking is staggering.
The entire package completely shames any personal marginalia or forgotten bookmarks I might have left in my reading wake over the years. Librarians already hate it (and are cancelling their orders) because of the ephemera that spills out of it once it’s released from the slipcase. Haters and Grinches they are.
|Dude, it even has a folded up napkin with a freakin’ map drawn on it.|
This incredible object sprang from the mind of J.J. Abrams – creator of television’s Alias, Lost, & Fringe, rebooter of Star Trek, and future savior of Star Wars – and the pen of novelist Doug Dorst (Alive in Necropolis, Surf Guru.) Abrams in the L.A. Times:
This is a story about how a book is used as a means of communication and sort of a catalyst for a great investigation… It is sort of a celebration of ‘the book,’ that physical, analog thing.
I dig that, but is it readable? Is it interesting? Is it trite? Confusing? Literary? Boring? Ridiculous?
I have no idea. (I’ve only read 18 pages to date.) And like I said, I almost don’t care at all. Everything about it is batshit crazy when you think about it. This is what’s so completely awesome about it: it exists! Right now, in 2013! The era of Amazon, the eBook, Dick Tracy wrist-phones, and the rise of digital-everything! A hardcover book crammed with paper! The fact that Abrams, Dorst, and Mulholland Books (an imprint of Little, Brown and Company) had the audacity – no, the fucking balls – to publish something like this in an era where people are constantly telling each other that print is dead… utterly, jaw-droppingly amazing. And it doesn’t cost 1000 bucks either. A perfectly reasonable $35. (Currently a 20%-off bestseller at the UCSD Bookstore, btw. Beware, our website is horrendous, but if you wait 15 seconds on the home page, you’ll see me grinning back at you.)
On the other hand, if it totally sucks, I’ll let you know. For the moment, I shall bask in its bold, bound glory. Long live the book.