Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Book and Its Cover

Even though I doggedly believe in my books long before they are published, long before any editor has expressed even a remote interest, somehow I still doubt that my books will ever be physical objects in the world until I see their covers.  The cover of Xylotheque: Essays features a photograph that I took at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts, well after all of the essays had been written. In fact, the weekend before my final manuscript was due at the press, I took a copy of it, along with my camera and a copy of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, to Concord and to Walden Pond where I finished the book. And so, even though none of the essays are about Concord or Walden—since I had never before been there—still, the book was influenced by that place. And so I think it is a fitting cover image.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Page Proofs

For so long—could it really be years of your life?—you, alone, have believed that the book is a book. Despite all evidence to the contrary—the scrawled-over manuscript pages that screamed hopeless, unfinishable pipe dream, the slippery words that you moved and added and omitted until you no longer understood their sense, and most especially the editors (a dozen, maybe more) who turned your work away, declaring it most decidedly not a book—you have continued to believe in your book’s essential bookness. The words, the paragraphs, the pages deserved to be wedded, bound together beneath a common cover. This was your stubborn, solitary belief. And though for years no one believed in your book—with the exception of a small handful of friends who share your lunacy—you kept sending it out into the world, hoping to infect someone with your lonely dream.

And one day—when, if you have to be honest, your unflagging belief had started to rub away—it happened. An editor called with good tidings. And now—now that you hold page proofs in your hands, now that a cover exists—you marvel that so many others are in agreement with you and your madness. A team—production editors, copyeditors, peer reviewers, writers of blurbs, graphic designers, marketing reps—a whole platoon, it seems, is now on your side, working to finish what you started years ago, confirming that intense, private belief you’ve kept for so long: that what you have created is a book.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Photo/Text 7: Offerings

They have brought me acorns, quinces, rose petals, catalpa pods, seashells, beads, bookmarks, broken coconut shells, folded notes the size of teeth, bluets pulled up by the roots, paper hearts, sheets of birch bark, leaves from many trees, fistfuls of dandelions, green tomatoes, chestnuts, plastic bags bursting with pine needles, branches with and without foliage, twigs, samaras, drawings, clay sculptures, sharpened pencils, unsharpened pencils, pumpkin stems, broken pens, the springs from pens, dead batteries, paintings, blocks, tiny wheels from lost cars, erasers, buttons, chalk, nailed together planks of wood, puzzle pieces, milkweed pods, hickory nuts, robin’s eggs, feathers, liquidambar seed pods, rocks, pieces of asphalt, uprooted seedlings, dead June bugs, living ladybugs, butterfly wings, speckled eggshell fragments, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, sticky candies, too-small paper crowns, snail shells, ants, paperclips, screws, washers, lengths of twine, ribbons, pen caps, twist ties, macaroni jewelry, cattails, and just last week, three crabapples. “Is it OK,” I asked them, “if I just photograph the apples, and then we’ll leave them here for the birds? By photographing them, it’s like I’m keeping them forever.” Uncertain, they acquiesced, but as we walked away, they cast regretful looks back at their offerings.