Recently, I purchased the book S., created by J.J. Abrams and written by Doug Dorst. The concept of the book fascinated me: it’s about two college students who meet and get to know each other by writing in the margins of novel by a fictional author named V.M. Straka. When you get the book S., it’s an actual copy of the novel, Ship of Theseus by Straka, complete with the notes written in the margins and other papers, postcards, newspaper clippings, etc, tucked into the pages.
It’s difficult to describe, one of those things you really have to see to understand, but it’s basically two stories intertwined. One is the story by the fictional author, the other in the story of the college students told in the margins. The notes, in pencil and various pen colors, are hard to follow because they aren’t in chronological order. The two college students pass the book back and forth at the library in an attempt to figure out who the mysterious Straka really is, all while getting to know each other through the pages of the book.
I’m only about 100 pages into this book (of approximately 450). It’s slow reading, but meant to be savored, I think…so that’s what I’m doing, just taking my time. Here’s my opinion so far: I’m much more interested in the story going on in the margins than the one on the printed page, which is (quite frankly, and in my non-expert opinion) not very well-written and actually a bit boring. That said, the book itself is super interesting because, as I stated in the title of this blog post, it reminds me why I love books.
Now, when I say that, I mean why I love physical books, not necessarily in reference to the actual written word–even though I love that, too, and probably more. S. is like a piece of art in my hands, an homage to books as books, with covers and paper pages. The true brilliance of it isn’t in the story, but in the actual book, which is an amazing little feat in publishing. Although S. is mass produced, what I’m holding feels like the only one like it in the world.
The cover is solid and the book has a nice weight to it when I pick it up. The pages are made to look aged, so they are yellowed around the edges, but have an excellent texture to them when I turn the pages. Even the binding makes a pleasing noise when I open it and the pages smell like a good book should.
Only someone who loves books the way I do will understand what I’m talking about…but no, I’m not crazy.
Anyway, the way the notes in the margins are printed make them look like real pencil and pen marks, even though they’re not. I know this, yet I keep running my fingers over the pages expecting to feel in indentations from the pen or pencil. Reading it feels like invading a personal conversation, but in a good way…like it feels when you read an excellent book and you become immersed in another person’s life.
In the end, I may not ending up loving the story in the pages of S., but I’m in love with S. itself, as a physical book. I feel like I want to carry it around with me and endlessly study its pages. Or better yet, get a beloved book of my own, write in its margins, and create a book like S. that really is all my own.