new and used

New and Used

Sandra was looking at this book when she was over yesterday and it reminded me of how great it is.  I bought it two years ago at the bookstore where I used to work in LA because there’s a picture of it in the book.


(this is not the picture from the book, but this is the courtyard of the bookstore on an afternoon when there was a rainbow)

Sandra found in it a funny Q&A written by Shelley Jackson that I hadn’t ever read.  Here’s her answer to the question What is a book?:

“Any device that doubles an aspect of the perceptual world, such as a mirror, a globe, a scientific formula, or a doll. Any carrier of thought, such as the air near a mouth; specifically, anything with words recorded on or in it, whether in ink, sound waves, patterns of light or electrical impulses, or that in the past or future had or will have such words, such as trees, or the smoke of a burning book, or the mulch of a wet newspaper on a street after a rainstorm. Anything to be passed through in an orderly fashion, such as a museum, or entered at diverse points and encountered only in part, such as a city or a lover. Anything folded, such as a map, a mountain ranger, a wave of light or sound. Anything layered, such as a sandwich, clothing, the earth’s crust, fliers on a telephone pole, or paint on a wall. Anything anchored at one end and free at the other, such as petals, feathers, leaves, flags, or a human life. Anything turning, such as vanes of a windmill, or paddles of a wheel. Anything with intervals, such as thunder or music, the slats of a fence or the frames of a film; anything that is dark on light, or light on dark, such as tigers or days passing. Anything wrapped in skin, such as a cow, cat or other mammal; anything covered in cloth, such as a bed. Anything sewn, such as a kite, a shoe, a sail, or a dress; anything glued. Anything with a gutter, such as a road. Anything with a spine, a jacket, or a signature. Anything with two wings, such as a house, a butterfly, a pocket mirror, or a bird. Anything pressed firmly between such wings, such as a nut or oyster. Anything that can be opened, such as oranges or pomegranates, mouths or eyes; anything that can be closed. Anything small, dense and unprepossessing, such as a seed, egg, cocoon, or novelty sponge, that expands unexpectedly in a hospitable environment. Any miniature or model, such as a doll house, diagram, map, or snow globe. Anything minutely marked, such as figured cloth. Anything preserved for the future, such as a packet of dried Sea Monkeys or instant soup, a time capsule, or a neurotic formation. Any time travel machine; any device for communicating with the dead; any memorial, obituary, zombie, or ghost. Any description of such an object, in conversation or in another book; the memory of such an object, or the anticipation of one not yet encountered.

In addition, the conditions of production of any such object, which may be additive, such as the conjunction of alphabet, pen, and hand; recombinant, such as the conjunction of leaves and wind; or subtractive, such as the conjunction of pre-existing books and bookworms or editors. The machinery of reproduction, such as sex, plagiarism, or the printing press; the machinery of distribution, such as rumor or truck-drivers, wind, water, or time; the machinery of circulation, such as selling, borrowing, losing, or finding.”

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