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Intriguing Read! Bizarre book-art gaining popularity

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Woman reading book

Unusual book formats are browsed by Pragya Jain as bizarre book-art is gathering popularity

The struggle of the author of the most famous fantasy series on this planet, J K Rowling, to get her first title published is as popular as her books. But once out, Harry Potter did not look back and seeped in the minds and hearts of young and old. Children used to have dreams of flying on the brooms and scoring a goal. Publishers may not have a knack of recognising a good book or the authors might be having faults in their stars, but it’s the readers who make a book pass or fail.

Just a sentence


The recent award winning Irish author Mike McCormack has received a €100,000 International Dublin Literary Award for his one-sentence novel. Though the book spanned 224 pages — no , the pages are not blank — the sentence begins on page one and ends on page 224. First published in 2016 in Ireland and winning other couple of awards, the book is longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Every time you pick up a new author, you take at least a 20-pages read to get on the track. Solar Bones will also take some time for you to get the hang of it. But once you are on to it, you cannot stop because the book doesn’t stop till the last word. It also does not have many punctuation breaks other than eventual commas and some hyphens here and there. It definitely has bumps of changing paragraphs with moving thoughts, paragraphs of just three words sometimes, that give you a little pause.

Marcus Conway, the protagonist, sits at his kitchen table and drifts away thinking about his past. As Mike McCormack says, “This is how you get carried away”, the thoughts flow to him, having parenthood as the theme of the book, and the reader hops on the unstoppable boat of his thoughts until he reaches to the end.

Author speaks

Mike McCormack has already published two collections of short stories and two novels. But this was his first attempt of experimenting with his writing style. When he says he doesn’t remember writing the book, we can understand the drift-away style of the book. Whatever form an author wants to maintain for his book, the choice of content intermingling and suiting with the style plays a big role. That’s why Mike McCormack confesses that people are talking about the formal experience in the book but the thematic experience was more difficult to carry out as there is Marcus Conway, his wife and children in the story and nothing happens to them.

Mike McCormack’s Wikipedia page tells that he was once called ‘a disgracefully neglected’ writer. No wonder Solar Bones was also rejected multiple times. But as soon as Tramp Press, Dublin decided to publish it, its popularity travelled through the skies.

The edible book which is made from of sugar

Winning at last

Solar Bones is not the only book that is close to the hearts of the readers and made millions of bucks to the author and the publishers after the early scoffings. There are many famous ones that were rejected more than a hundred times but made to the Bestsellers stands. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, being the apple of the eye tops the charts. Your own Moby Dick, Twilight, Life of Pi, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Lord of the Flies, Still Alice, The Time Traveller’s Wife, Animal Farm and The Jungle Book are few of those which scored a century of rejections.

Widen your eyes…

FYI, Solar Bones is not the only unusual book that we have come across. Few authors have a knack of using extensive poetic licence and they keep on experimenting with their form. You start blabbering about experimental techniques and do not mention Pamela by Samuel Richardson, it doesn’t happen. Pamela was written as letters setting a trend and the diary writing became cool. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff took a step more and used documents, interviews, emails and medical reports to build its plot.

Text me…

The textless Mirror Book

Students and teachers have been in a bitter battle these days about the accuracy of modern English language. Contraction of spellings and inclination over being the reader of text messages only can brag about reading Shakespeare in their own way. Brett Wright must have imagined Romeo and Juliet sending text messages, reading status updates and expressing through emojis. Brett also took pride in sharing the authorship of YOLO Juliet with William Shakespeare. Just imagine!

Where am I…

But, have you ever imagined a book zoning in and out? I mean, not like a stream of consciousness thing, but literally? Try The Leaving by Tara Altebrando. Six children were lost when they were kindergarteners and five of them have made a come back after eleven years. When the fragments of their vanished time comes back to them, the writer gives a visual representation of their zoning in and out of their memories, sometimes by making letters falling from the words!

Manuscripts…

A famous scholar, Dr Rakesh Jain, says “If an ancient copy has stuff scribbled in the margin or in the footnotes, it’s the manuscript”. In these days of reprography, you would be happy to have a photocopy of the manuscript. House of Leaves is one such book by Mark Z Danielewski. Another example is S. by Doug Dorst and J J Abrams, which has a fictional novel, Ship of Theseus, as the main plot and two students trying to decipher its meaning. They also find postcards, pictures etc inside the book.

Book keeping…

Writing books completely as lists has also been in trend for sometime. Todd Hasak-Lowy’s debut YA novel Me Being Me Is Exactly as Insane as You Being You topped the charts as our hero jots down what he feels about several issues in his life. But there is this one that looks like a dictionary. The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan has ideas jotted down with their description as the part of speech, as you find in a dictionary, that too, in alphabetical order. Excuse me, can you think alphabetically?

Play with me…

This one is unbelievable. Edgar Allan Poe’s short story The Imp of the Perverse is redesigned by Helen Friel in such a way that it has to be completely destroyed (wait, don’t burn it) to understand it. She wants you to literally get the meaning by using the perforations given in the grid on the pages and fold it and tear it to find out if you have the will and power to satisfy your imp.

Feeling hungry…

We have been talking about books since too long. Are you feeling hungry? Why not nibble on the book itself? Design Criminals, an edible book written by Andreas Pohancenik, bagged itself a nomination for Brit Insurance Design Awards. It weighed 55 pounds, made up of sugar and vegetable ink. Do you have a sweet tooth?

Literally…

Now, it’s time for some self-contemplation. Open The Mirror Book, by John Christie and Ron King, published in 1985 has mirrors inside it. The book (which doesn’t have text) is about self-discovery and shows you your hands and face (Really? Phew!) in the mirror when you open it. Your face reflects and distorts while turning the pages. You also get a pair of gloves with the book to handle it with care.

Umm…

You may call these experimental books ‘a rebel’, I call them ‘a break-free’ depicting the post-post-modern ideology opening the window to the popular fiction to jump out and wander in their candid shoes.