Book Eleven


Book eleven was a mistake. After I made it I tried to avoid pasting anything in. It was to be text only. It was designed in a very self-conscious attempt to focus on my writing without the distraction of graphic elements. It was a kind of textual puritanism. It took me five years to complete and undoubtedly failed to record what is most compelling about the passage of time - the ephemera, the visual, and the transitory.

This was the first book that I actually made. In that regard I have always been happy with it. I unbound an old atlas purchased at a second-hand shop. After painting the pages with a mixture of gesso and acrylic medium (designed to give a white surface for writing that would still permit the maps to show through) I folded them into signatures and sewed them together as instructed in The Craft of Bookbinding.. I completed it with a metal hinge. Part of my prohibition against pasting materials into the book was the inevitable expansion this caused. The metal hinge would not stand for this. The cover holds an engraving from the days of moveable type - it is a photograph, screened and etched onto a copper plate with four holes for mounting on a wooden block. The book boards are covered with tar paper - a preferred construction material for me at the time.


Some fragments:

July 12, 1995

A good book is the kind that is difficult to read. A book, the bones of which, catch in the throat and, if read at the right moment, can choke the reader. It's got to be a little like a difficult poison, like alcohol that burns on the way down and leaves you with false impressions. A good book will ruin your vision that way.

I have discovered the most eloquent melancholy in The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa.

"He is an isolated individual who can express himself, but is unsure who he is."

"I never gave credence to that which I believed. I filled by hands with sand. I called it gold, and emptied my hands of all of it. The sentence was my only truth. With the sentence said, everything was done; the rest was the sand it always was."

If I had a camera I would always film everyone running towards the camera. Bright sun. Globs of light in everything.

August 16, 1995

Ears like a peel of grapefruit, large and pithy.

August 17, 1995

He always found the railing quickly in a stairwell for fear that someone would push him from behind. And the grocery store exuded a smell that was almost like almost every spice he knew. It must be fragrant to live in your world, they thought, where everything is the essence of something else.

If you knew that someone would never be happy would you be justified in taking their life? If you knew that humanity was doomed to misery what could you do? What does someone do who is faced with a meaningless life - sycophant. 

He walked up to my front door one day. I said, "You look like you have something on your mind, what's the matter?" He said, "I am plagued by a meaningless existence. I merely am."

June 27, 1998

For a while every time someone said something to him he thought of a tree.

"I have lived in this city for ten years" elicited the image of a weeping willow. "She barely remembers" made him think of cedar. His sister was a Japanese maple. Each letter of her words, a leaf, the leaves, veined with green veins, spines across the body of leaves or else a silk hair drawn over the green fabric of her speech. The letters over and over again, growing into the space between worlds. Sounding so unlike the gravel of his conversation. HIS talk like nothing but sharp stones underfoot - like the prick of burnt grass on the bare instep in summer. His talk a thistle, his way of talking, thorn after thorn after thorn, pressed into the tender flesh of her sole."

Here is a list of books.

Tim McLaughlin

Photographer and writer based in Vancouver, Canada