My book is “so weird”

I’ve made a book. It’s a bit of an odd one – a collection of Valentine’s Day Cards that I’ve created – closer to poetry than story. Each page only holds a handful of sentences at most. You can read more about it here.

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Yes, I made a book and called it “Read Me.”

It’s available through a print-on-demand service online, but I had a few copies of it printed. Some of these copies are available for sale at my favorite coffee shop, where I usually go to write. They’ve sold pretty well, considering I don’t promote them, and the only advertising is a little sign that says they cost 15 euro. I’m happy with how they’re doing.

What’s fascinating, and weird, is to be there when someone takes a look at the book. I often sit there and write and I see people come and go. Now and then someone picks up the book, has a look at it, and put it back – or they leaf through a few of the pages and then they put it back.

They have no idea it’s my book that I’ve made, or that I’m sitting there looking at them and wondering what they’re thinking. Probably just as well. I still haven’t been there when someone’s decided to buy the book.

Today, it happened again. I sat there writing, drinking my coffee and wondering how the characters in my story really felt about what was going on.

Next to me, at another table, sat a group of girls. Young ones – upper teens at most is my guess, no more than 21-22. One of them spotted the book and brought it over to the table and started looking through it.

At this stage, I’m having a real hard time concentrating on my writing.

I’m trying my best not to look like my ears are reaching for every word they say. I don’t think they notice.

One of them, the one who picked it up, keeps saying how weird it is. They read the occasional page, and seem to find them cute/funny, but the girl who holds the book keeps repeating how weird she thinks it is. So weird.

It’s weird for me too. For a moment I’m considering whether or not to tell them it’s my book and explain to them where it comes from, but I decide against it. That too would be weird.

Fortunately, I have an appointment, and have to leave, but the memory sticks with me.

I think most of all I’m amused.

The girl very clearly didn’t “get” the book, and I think there are probably two reasons for that.

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Do you know the reference?

First, she just flipped back and forth through it, picking out the odd page here and there. Doing it like that, you have to get lucky for the book to make sense. Some of the cards do not make much sense on their own, and a few of them (Potato Angel Buffalo) don’t make any sense whatsoever. Taken like that, the book can probably seem a bit weird.

Secondly, she was young. I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with this explanation, but I think it really may be a factor. Chances are that if you’re young, you don’t quite have the frames of reference to relate to all of the cards, even if you get them in context.

If you’re young, you’re fed an image of what love and life are supposed to be like that may not accurately match what life has in store for you. You’ve got more expectations than experience.

This is probably a bit rich. After all, as a middle-aged man, what do I really know of what teenage girls know about love? My theory is built on preconceived notions about how the world works, and it could very well be wrong. It’s not like I’m an expert on love myself.

I think that’s a key point.

If my world is built on preconceived notions of how the world works, it must be safe to assume that it’s the same for most other people too. Then again, that too may be just a preconceived notion…

Either way, I’m not disheartened that someone thinks my book is “so weird” although it was a weird experience hearing them say it.

It’s fascinating though. The book makes perfect sense to me. I know people who love it. I love it. People read different things into the words, and different cards speak out to them. That too is fascinating.

Finally, a slightly modified version of the book is due out in early November. I’m reviewing the changes and letting them mature in my mind a little before I finalize it. It’s on its way though.

My book is “so weird”

I made art – am I an artist?

At Burning Man this year, someone asked me if I was an artist. It took me by surprise, the question. Then again, I’d just talked about something I’d made and called it art, so I guess it was just natural they should ask.

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Burn With Me.

I don’t feel like an artist, but I guess if I claim to have made art – and I do – it means I’m an artist. I don’t remember exactly what I answered, but it was probable something along the lines of “uhm, yeah, I guess…”

Being an artist seems to imply something more than just having made one piece of art.

That said, I’m happy to call myself a writer, even though I haven’t really published any stories. I write, so I’m a writer. I don’t regularly make art though – it kind of just happened.

Regardless of whether I’m an artist or not. I did something and called it art, and I’d like for people to see it.

The art piece I made is a book: a collection of Valentine’s Day cards and “words of affection.” You can read more about the book itself here.

It’s not “just” about the book though. Part of the art is people’s interactions with the book. The ones I brought to Burning Man all came with a pen attached to encourage people to write in them.

Most of the books I gave away to people I met, but some I left in places where people could encounter them on their own. One such place was Point Three at the Trash Fence, and you can see what people wrote in that book on this page.

I recovered one other book left in a public place, and I’ll be putting up the pages from that in the near future.

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I made art – am I an artist?

Out of the fire

I went to Burning Man.

It was good.

As usual, it wasn’t quite what I expected it to be, but that’s fine, it was still good.

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This time around I brought my own art project – a book I’d made. Originally, I’d just meant it as a gift for people I met who’d seem like they’d be the right kind of person for it, but it turned out to be more than that.

I met a few artists, talked to them, and offered them the book as a guest book for their art piece. This turned out really well, and lots of people left messages and notes in the books.

I also left one book at Point 3, which is the furthest point in the deep playa you can get to. This book I collected before leaving the event and within the next few days/weeks I’ll get around to scanning/photographing all of the pages and share them here on the blog.

The book is a deeply personal project for me, and it was very rewarding to see it fill up with words and comments from people who don’t know me and who don’t have any prior knowledge of what I’ve created. It felt good.

I’ll do it again.

I’ve already got a few ideas kicking around for a new book for next year’s burn, even though I’ve already decided not to go. I can’t afford to go every year, but I can still make a book and make it available to the people who do go.

Out of the fire