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<nettime> unprintability (part 1)
Charles Baldwin on Mon, 22 Aug 2011 10:50:59 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> unprintability (part 1)

Do not print this book
Sandy Baldwin

What good is a writer if he can't destroy literature? And us... what good are we if we don't help as much as we can in that destruction? - Julio Cortazar

Geoffrey Gatza, fearless director of BlazeVox, that "publisher of weird little books," took the final proofs of Lurid Numbers to his printer on July 27, 2011. Lurid Numbers is a collection of more or less "codeworked" text - much like _i did the weird motor drive_, my 2007 book with BlazeVox - written through simple computer scripts and word processings, and through my own impulse, inquiry, and idiocy. The next day he came back with some odd news in the form of an email from the publisher:

------ Forwarded Message
From: <no_reply {AT} createspace.com>
Date: Tue, 26 Jul 2011 12:02:16 -0700 (PDT)
To: Geoffrey Gatza <editor {AT} blazevox.org>
Subject: Files for Lurid Numbers, 978-1609640705 require your attention

The interior and cover files for Lurid Numbers, 978-1609640705 have been reviewed.The cover file meets our submission requirements; it is not necessary for you to make any revisions to this file or upload it again.The interior file does not meet our submission requirements for the reason(s) listed below. Please make any necessary adjustments to your interior file and upload it again by logging in to createspace.com.The interior file contains pages with unreadable text or "jibberish" which we are unable to move forward with as it may appear as a file error in manufacturing. Please submit a revised interior file for further review.

Best regards,
The CreateSpace Team

As we like to say in academia, the email was "interesting," that is, it could be read as linked to a number of other cultural domains and protocols. The relation of the "interior" to the "cover" repeats and takes part in the history of the "book," where the cover is the limit of the work of writing; the cover is the enclosure or partition, the  event and inscription of multiple institutions: of authorship (if the work is under a pseudonym or in some way unsigned, the copyright page still must contain an author's name, even if it is "anonymous"), commerce (the name of the publisher, legal descriptions of rights and regulations, and so on), and archiving (library of congress number, date of publication, etc.). Along with this, the fact that the interior of the book was somehow rotten or broken seemed both a judgment and a simple fact of this book. It was even better that this was expressed iconographically in the cover, which did meet "submission requirements." I saw the cover 
 as a submission of the contents to a single image. The cover shows a butchered and already old, slightly rotted fish. The image is photoshopped, neon and definitely lurid. Geoffrey directed me to this image, and I loved the combination of the repulsive and slimy, the mundane and organic, with the software transformation that keeps it real but artificial as well. It did indeed seem to submit and capture the interior.

And then: "the interior file contains pages with unreadable text" seems to me an almost ontological statement, one that rubs against the proximity between the written work and the human. We may submit, we may submit a cover - ourselves - that meets requirements (of culture, of others), but our interiors are often quite different, unreadable. I also appreciated the misspelling of gibberish, suggesting a virality of the unreadable text into the printer's email. Finally: "we are unable to move forward [...] as it may appear as a file error in manufacturing" suggested to me an event or force of the work beyond the interior file, a hidden explosion breaking the apparatus that machined it, and seeping or flooding past the cover.

In short, I was pleased to become more than just another job for the printer, to become a new process and something beyond the routine. At the same time, I was concerned, wondering what would happen with my interior file, as it were. I found out five days later, on August 1, 2011, when Geoffrey informed me in an email that "they cannot print this book and there is nothing I can do about it. [...] this is something completely new and I have to say I am perplexed by the mechanizations of modern times. The printers are not opposed to you or your work, this is a situation of a printing process that is highly automated and this registers exactly like a printers error to their machine. It is not a human that we must cajole into agreeing that this is art, which was my first take on this, as with the printer who cannot spell. This is a matter of a quality control camera that will reject books that look like this. I talked with a lot of people in the company and even had my lawyer cal
 l them to see if great weight would move the immovable. But no, their system will literally stop when it would try to produce your work." 

A writing that stops the computer system, the very system designed to print out writing: what more could I ask for? What more frustrating thing, as well, so close to the print out of the book, that fetish object that makes authors out of writers? I was judged by the computer to have written something, i.e. it did not deny that there was an input that it could judge, but it evaluated my writing as unprintable, as a writing that can only remain in the space of the computer, within the possibilities of software. My interior file was bummed out but also filled or luridly lit up with a deep pleasure.

BTW, the book is here:

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