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Re: [BKARTS] Narrative book art

I think it would be difficult to find examples of "Narrative Book Arts" in a major search engine b/c it's not a phrase widely used by those kinds of artists to describe themselves.
I feel my books very much reflect the definition that Jules has set out: I write and bind my books myself (poetry, short stories, essays, some illustrated, some not, editions of numerous copies. Very few are single copies.) However the phrase Narrative Book Art exists no where on my site, nor within any of my books. That's not to say I might not start using it!
The idea is that my literature gets out in the world. The idea of binding my own books came about as a solution within a nomadic lifestyle. 10 years ago, living on a boat in Alaska, I don't know that I could have predicted that this solution would turn into a way of life.
I do agree that there are not many of us who enter the book arts as writers. It appears that many enter from different doorways: letter press, paper making, restoration, etc. But we're out there, us writers AND bookbinders.
The workshops I most enjoy giving teach writers to turn their creations into their own books. The sense of empowerment the process gives is priceless. Rather than struggle with agents and publishers, they get to struggle with margins, binding string, spine canvas, overall design--overall solutions that are immediate. Not to say that dealing with agents and publisher is pointless, it's just a different means to an end. This could lead to an obvious spin off discussion...the quantity of books produced and circulated in a major run with a large publishing house versus the 20 or 100 copies a poet makes and distributes for him or herself. But both of these options also have their own advantages and disadvantages. In any case.
I also believe that today's technology means that printing long narratives is a more accessible possibility than it once was. Anyone with a printer, basic knowledge of desktop publishing (or access to someone who has the knowledge), and basic binding abilities can print and bind a novel. We do it nearly everyday here in the studio for clients, in addition to my own books. Luckily neither my clients nor I have to spend 10K to get an edition out!
By contrast, I find the concept of Narrative Book Arts to be exhilaratingly liberating. It's what my creative life is all about. Narrative Book Arts has led to more books, led to more creative solutions, led to more individuals enjoying my books than I ever could have imagined.
Examples can be found at http://www.transientbooks.com/artistbooks.html
Nice topic of discussion!
All best,
Alex Appella

----- Original Message ----- From: "Charles Brownson" <ocotilloarts@xxxxxxxxx>
To: <BOOK_ARTS-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Friday, October 24, 2008 11:33 AM
Subject: Re: [BKARTS] Narrative book art

See my article "Now the Artists Book Now" on my website ocotilloarts.com (under the "studio goals" tab). I think there are several reasons why you are having difficulties finding examples. First, to theorize your problem, the requirements you list are incompatible in important ways: books (in the sense of printed -- usually long -- narratives) belong to a machine aesthetic whereas art which aspires to uniqueness belongs to the handmade aesthetic. Getting these two to mix is like oil and vinegar in salad dressing -- you have to keep shaking the bottle. (This is the main topic of the article I refer to.) Second, somewhat as a consequence of the first, there aren't very many examples that meet all your criteria -- in fact, I'd much like to see the list that will come out of your research. Third, the economics of it are working against you. The shorter the narrative the more difficult it is to tell any sort of meaningful story, and especially one of any
moral significance. Writing these things is a specialized talent. But you (the artist) would rather work with a short text. You'd like to get this thing done in your lifetime, you don't want to retreat to industrial methods, and if you did come up with a damned thick square book of 500 pages of difficult writing and difficult art stewed into a critical masterpiece what would you do with it? It's too big to edition, and where is the collector who will pay $10K for the thing, especially since you've been working so hard to get it done you haven't had any time to advertise yourself, make any petit jeux for the galleries, etc. Finally, how many people do you know who can write like Melville and draw like Kathe Kollwitz? These are alll good reasons why the older conception of an artist's book (with the apostrophe) was a commercial item for the carriage trade made by a graphic artist using hijacked poetry.
There are also technical problems integrating text and the visual track to the degree you require, largely having to do with the tyranny of the rectangle imposed by typeset verbiage, and the requirement that the text be legible and easily readable. The easiest solution is calligraphic. Great -- we've already asked for a Melville and a Kollwitz and now we want a Yan Zhenqing? I don't know about you, but I find the prospect of narrative book art really intimidating.
Ocotillo Arts (Tempe AZ)
(PS I apologize for my website, which really needs renovating. Time, time, time... )

________________________________ From: Jules Siegel <jules@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx> To: BOOK_ARTS-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Sent: Wednesday, October 22, 2008 4:56:29 PM Subject: [BKARTS] Narrative book art

I am writing an essay on narrative book art, a term that I thought was
prominent in our field, until I searched the term "narrative book art."
I got exactly one hit. Maybe I broke the Internet. Help me out here.

Example #1

"Minsky in Bed" by Richard Minsky
Text and commentary by Richard Minsky. His love life in the style of the
incunabula, with historiated, inhabited and illuminated initials.

Example #2

"Mad Laughter, Fragments of a Life in Progress"
Text, illustrations, facsimile documents and other visual objects along
with photographs by the author and others. Scenes from his life and
family history.

Shared characteristics:

[1] The text, typography and design are the work of a single author, who
creates or chooses the illustrations and also prints, binds and sells
the book.

[2] The book is meant to be read and looked at, but the text is main
conveyor, not the art. The text is not visually obscure.

[3] It tells a story in words and images; it's not a collection of
isolated pieces. The segments are at least several paragraphs long and
usually take up multiple pages. If it consists of very small segments,
such as poetry, they form a narrative.

[4] The layout is integrated with the story or complements it in a
global way. Richard's book has an antique design that gives his very
candid and explicit sexual memoir an amusing historical frame. My book
is laid out like a lavish university press version of a Great Man's
memoir, complete with documents from his personal papers.


* What other books like this do you know?

* Is narrative book art a recognized genre?

* Do you have any other defining characteristics to add?

* References and authorities?

* Other observations or points of interest

Many thanks for any assistance you may be inclined to offer.

-- JULES SIEGEL Apdo. 1764, 77501-Cancun, Q. Roo, Mexico http://www.cafecancun.com/bookarts

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