SES: I'm team-teaching a course
this semester entitled "Artists' Books and Writers' Tales," which includes both
a weekly seminar (focusing largely on discussions of fiction that asks
questions about the nature of books and reading) and a weekly studio (in which
students learn to make books). Artists' books, or livres d'artistes, are
book-objects that take a variety of forms.We just read The Real Life of
Sebastian Knight, and I gave the students the following assignment for
Wednesday, Feb. 18, which I thought List members might enjoy. Perhaps you
would like to submit your own proposals to the List? [...]
the spirit of Borges, who describes the books he may write someday, and in an
effort to bring our course’s literary and visual components together, I’d like
you to imagine creating a limited-edition artist’s book of The Real Life of
Sebastian Knight. Your proposed
book should incorporate the text of Nabokov’s novel and convey its meaning
through the book’s own visual, spatial, or conceptual form. What would such a book look like? How would one read it? The artists’ books that you’ve seen in
the studio, in exhibits at the Cantor, or in the pages of Smith’s Structure of
the Visual Book may inspire you.
This is only a proposal, so you’re not limited by your resources or
technical skills. Please describe
your book in a brief paragraph, about as long as this one (150 words), and bring
it to class on Wednesday, Feb.
18. You may include a sketch if
JM: What an
impressive invitation and magic carpet teaching project: how to transform 150 words into a self-contained book that
incorporates the text of RLSK and its uni-multiverse while breaking
away, at the same time, from its containment (if I understood
correctly the spirit of your creative task).Congratulations!
One question: You mentioned
that V. proclaims that
“any soul may be yours, if you find and follow its
undulations” (p.204) in its final paragraph, which includes "three
parts, joined by the word “or,” " thereby allowing the
reader "at least three possible interpretations (or, in McHale’s terms,
multiple endings)...: V. suddenly realizes that he and Sebastian may actually be
The final quandary,
resulting from "who is this “someone else” who can be both of them, but whom
neither of them knows? The author
of The Real Life of Sebastian Knight?
or the reader of The Real Life of Sebastian Knight? We’re back where we
started!", as I see it, is dependent on accepting V's premiss "any
soul may be yours."
Should the reader reject
this premiss does it mean that the text of RLSK has not been sufficiently
"incorporated" and that, from the very start, the reader has failed
the proposed assignment?