Redeeming the Medium

Monday, May 3, 2010

Anne Carson's Nox is more than a book, it's an art object.  It comes in a box and its pages fold out, accordion-style, slowly revealing itself as it stretches across your desk or lap.  Reviewing it for New York magazine, Sam Anderson says:

Few things in this world have the power to make me clean my desk. One of them, it turns out, is Anne Carson’s new book-in-a-box, Nox. Before I even opened it, I felt an irresistible urge to spend twenty minutes purging my worktable of notes, napkins, magazines, forks, check stubs, unpaid bills, and fingernail clippings. The urge struck me, I think, for a couple of reasons. For one, Nox is unwieldy. It is, very deliberately, a literary object—the opposite of an e-reader designed to vanish in your palm as you read on a train.

Nox is an elegy written for Carson's brother, Michael, who died unexpectedly in 2000.  It's a scrapbook, a portrait of her brother that comes into focus like a Polaroid photo as the pages pile up.  And it's a beautiful reminder of the things that only the print medium can still do.

At the AWP conference this year, Brian Kevin, a former editor for CutBank, said that perhaps the future of literary magazines and small presses is tied to redeeming the print medium by combining long-form writing with striking design.  That redemption would come in the form of a book like Nox that could never be reproduced in digital form. Sure, some smart designer could mock up a simulation of the accordion folding and intersperse the pages with multimedia, but the effect of rolling across a space and filling in a story wouldn't be the same.

(photo via New York magazine)