the unfortunates

B.S. Johnson’s 1969 The Unfortunates comes in a box.  It is mostly unbound, consisting of 27 booklets, usually about 6 or 7 pages in each.  There is one marked “First” and one marked “Last,”  but the other 25 are not numbered or marked by anything but a circular icon.  (The First’s circle is an empty outline, the Last’s is simply filled in, solid black.  Sound familiar? Anyway the others look like clipart flowers.) They are to be shuffled and read in any order possible–the publisher’s notes also promise that the order in which they are purchased is “random”  (Using inverted commas here in case one of you also has a physics background and wants to yell at me for possibly misusing the word.)  The tone of the book is extremely melancholy, to borrow Steve’s word, much like House of Leaves and Gen X, to borrow his observation.  End book report.

The Unfortunates‘ ripe old age of 41 seems to further complicate our already problematic discussion of the terms post-print, (a- non- un-) linear and co.  The book is read from the first word to the last without jumping around once you’ve settled on the order in which to read the booklets–those words even remain the same.  The reader still gets the same information, and certainly many readers will even get it in the same orders (25×25=625, the ‘book’ wasn’t a huge success but it definitely broke that low celing) But its clever stance of the publication process and book-binding certainly feels like it qualifies it for the postprint team, especially if we are going to call xkcd (which also has a first, last and a “random” order option for the rest) and house of leaves (which, as professor pointed out last week, only has one route if all the signs are observed (said knowing that this is probably another joke: while most people don’t read it in exactly the order the book suggests, there is still a “right path”) postprint.

So is it just the shift from paper to screen that brings the change?  From one of screen to another?

I really cannot think right now my head is killing me, so I’ll continue this tomorrow.


~ by dukerogersnelson on March 22, 2010.

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