Stack: Formal Considerations

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the art of the stack (quick watercolor)

I admit that things have gotten a little out of hand. Since starting this project I’ve let myself go a bit, over-indulged. I used to make a conscientious effort in the name of harmony to limit myself, but apparently when given the slightest license I lose all perspective. What I mean is, the stacks are proliferating. As I look around the room where I do my writing, the piles seem to have sprung up of their own volition, or by the exertions of unseen forces.

At some point in the process of stacking one arrives organically at a critical mass. The question of capacity is personal one; the limits of readerly space, after all, are both concrete and abstract. How many piles can one accommodate in one’s rooms? How much open kitchen counter space is truly necessary? How viable is a stack of books as a pillow displacement? Also, intellectually, how many books can be kept going without muddling? At what point does the volume of reading material precipitate a sort of emptying out of worth, a loss of continuity?

Another question is, how much does the form of the stack contribute to the receptivity of the mind, or its organization? This is no small question. Is stack building equivalent to data flow structuring? Is the direction of my reading, as guided by the way I stack, forming connections that will become themselves directive? If this is the case, the formal implications of stacking (or any form of structured reading) might be substantial. If it can be assumed that reading alters experience, and if it can be said that experience is at least partly constitutive of an individual’s being, then it can be suggested that the decisions a reader makes about the directions of their inquiry can effect the ongoing synthesizing project of being. How much does how we read have to do with who we become?

A few possibilities:

The narrative stack. This pile occupies somewhat casual reading spaces like my bedside table and the table next to the reading chair. It usually consists of fiction and narrative non-fictions. What earns a book a spot in these piles is a light pace and the ease of absorbing their contents. With these books, the reading experience is more receptive than participatory. Which is to say, one’s participation is suspended until the work is concluded, and to this end, there are pencils nearby, and the scraps of paper that serve as bookmarks can also be used for note-taking. This reading is satisfying and comfortable, even when the material is provocative. This pile can be diverse and innovative. Unexpected connections can spark and catch, or new directions can be embarked upon. Or naps might be indulged in…

The genre stack. This pile is dominated by type, either general, like poetry or science fiction, or narrow, like the works of the Black Mountain Poets or of the Russian formalists. This pile is comparative by nature, united by ‘location’ but vibrant and various like any community. It constitutes a kind of commons, and it’s purpose is to establish familiarity. Reading through this stack is lively and its creation has a special appeal for the collector.

The research/topical stack. This pile often has both books and photocopies. It sometimes accommodates notebooks and loose notes. It is nearly always the case that quite a few page-markers have sprouted between the book pages within this stack. Sometimes a parent book, the one I initially began that motivated the acquisition of the other texts for illumination (books can be reproductive, or they rest on an implied or explicit foundation that one excavates by reading with curiosity, to acquire depth), sits on the top of the pile, supported materially and contextually by the works beneath it. A question is the germ of this stack, and to build it is to pursue understanding.

The scheduled stack. The motivation of this stack is a deadline. The deadline can be the date the book will be due back to the library, or returned to a friend, or read through for a project. Time and discipline guide this stack, and it is reconstituted as often as a work is finished or begun. Connections between the members of this stack are incidental, and often not closely marked as such. In this way, this stack is a loose gathering, like a crowd at a bus stop.

The inspirational stack. This pile’s work is to bring the reader to some sort of act or performance. It might center around a certain class of activity, like cooking or drawing, or it might function as an impetus for creativity in general. This stack is often composed of things that can be consumed in bites, such as monographs, cookbooks, or atlases. An analysis of the contents of this stack can clarify or reveal a creative direction, or even offer redirection. I find that the works that inhabit this pile are extremely conversive one with another, and my relationship to them, even when I am ready to shuffle or refresh the pile, feels pleasantly open and ongoing rather than relatively closed and complete. Does this imply something about the process of inspiration itself? Is there a sort of continual dialogue or layering in the process of creativity that is neither compartmentalized nor limited by boundary of any sort? What is it about a collection or the act of collecting that seems so near the source of creativity?

Because it’s already been so long since I last posted, and because it would be possible for me to continue indefinitely (what about linguistically structured piles? What about piles composed of a particular span of time irrespective of genre? etc…), I’ll leave the list open at this point in the hopes that it will encourage personal observation or even innovation (could we, for instance, observe that the dendrite is a form native to flow and somehow build a reading process in its image? Is the ideal form of the stack vertical or horizontal? What does this mean for the conventional bookshelf? How would a reading dynamic change if the stack was operated collaboratively by a group of readers? etc…).

In my first post, I offered the term “mindful reading” as a working descriptor of an optimal type of reading, but my thinking has outgrown it (can any sort of reading be called unmindful?). In this post, I have suggested that the way we read effects both the way we integrate what we read and the direction of our growth. The question is, then, what motivates or patterns our modes of organization? Am I caught in a sort of circular ruins of the reader who reads to create the reader who reads, or does the addition of new information via reading restructure the motivation/pattern enough to allow for new growth?

Blog Notes:
I truly apologize for the lengthy amount of time between this post and the last one. I admit that my curiosity almost always gets the better of me, and that I often cast myself too wide (personality themes are developing, you’ll notice) and need to pare away drag. It may also have become clear to you, as it has to me, that there is something in me that resists regularity of any sort. I can’t tell you how I wish this wasn’t the case, and how hard I constantly struggle against it. With this character flaw in mind I’m going to make another attempt in a series of endless attempts to find something that works; I will see if the idea of writing one post a week, no matter how trivial, will be manageable. It’s likely that this won’t be the last time I need to apologize for my absence, but I hope that these revisions convey my unwavering commitment to the project of this blog, and my understanding of its realization as a process.

A few thoughts after burying some roots:

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Quick study, in pencil & strong tea, of Giant Solomon’s Seal root (Polygonatum biflorum var. commutatum)

During solstice-week, some roots and bulbs I ordered came in the mail. They were tied tenderly into bags full of loose, moist soil. When I went out in the cold and wet to bury them, I thought about what it means to be dormant; after nutrients are recovered and stored, after the aerial parts have withered, the plant’s metabolism slows. It performs minor renewals and maintains its cell walls. It waits, quiescent, for the return of adequate light and favorable temperatures.

Dormancy seems to be less about sleeping than about a kind of timely introversion; all inessential things are pared away, needs are reduced, and purpose is focused. It is less about retreat than it is about varieties of gathering in preparation for a coming emergence. I note some valuable intimations for the practice of writing.

Setting out roots is an emphasis in distinction. It’s important that the root make good contact with the soil in order to start taking up nutrients and maybe developing mycorrhizae, but no matter how well I pack the soil around the root with my palms, or how closely the afternoon rain fits the soil to the root’s skin (a plant’s outer protective covering is called its epidermis), the root remains distinct. It performs endless exchanges with the substances and organisms that surround it, but it is always engaged primarily with its own growth, its own becoming. Correspondingly, if it is uprooted, the microstructures of the soil will reform, and soon the earth won’t remember its shape.

Maybe prolonged proximity has a blurring effect on boundaries; when I come in from my garden to my bookshelves I see a very similar ground. Some of the words we use to talk about reading suggest implantation, embedding.
I can’t help having the sensation that between the closed covers of books and inside my own skin there is radical activity that goes on unseen. In my imaginings this activity resembles a churn. Every time I reopen a book I am faced with something that has undergone some sort of mysterious rearrangement whereby, even though I read the same words, I experience something other and cohere to unfamiliar surfaces.
Book and reader meet like two active processes working in tandem. There is the presentation, as between the earth and the root, of a collaboration in growth.
What kind of a form will I elaborate when I am ‘into’ the book? Correspondingly, where and in what shape does a book exist when it isn’t being read?

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Quick study, in pencil & strong tea, of Blue Camas bulbs (Camassia quamash)

Reading an essay by Mary Ruefle I came across a moment where she considers the book-reader relationship in terms of breastfeeding: “Of course, it is we who are being nursed by the books, and then I think of the reader asleep, the open book on his or her chest.” There is something about the relationship between book and reader that is slippery and metaphor resistant. Who is the breast and who is the suckling is the same question as who is the root and who is the earth or who is the woman and who is the apple. None of these questions have meaningful answers.

What is important is the number and sort of exchanges that are made, the sense of reciprocal nourishment, and the feeling of expansion through participation with the other. What’s important, in other words, is a kind of tending.

Notes:
Roots from the lovely people at Strictly Medicinal Seeds
Ruefle, Mary. “Someone Reading a Book is a Sign of Order in the World.” Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures. Seattle: Wave Books, 2012. 183-99. Print.

 

The Felicity of Being Found

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Saturday morning I couldn’t get out of bed. The week had been so endless, so stressful that I couldn’t let go of this early, unobligated moment. I thought about prolonging pajamas as long as possible. I gave myself license to drift between sleep and daylight without stricture. Soon enough, two warm little bodies found me in my pile of blankets and snuggled in alongside. I could be any mammal mother in winter, burrowing with warm little bodies, full.

Things come to me in multiples. The twins are only one emanation of a lifelong trend that manifests in diverse ways. I have learned to attend to these revelations with a sort of supplicant’s ear, which is to say I’ve learned to receive them (if I have any mystical tendencies, this is their sole direction). So when, two weeks apart, two children’s books presented themselves to my attention without being sought, I attended.

The first encountered me totally out of context—it was mis-shelved in the bookstore—and was one I didn’t know existed. It is a children’s book by Gertrude Stein, illustrated by Clement Hurd (of Goodnight, Moon fame), and called The World is Round. The protagonist of the book is named Rose. A reader familiar with Stein might find this predictable, but the character is inspired by an actual young girl named Rose Lucy Renée Anne d’Aiguy, a neighbor of the author’s in Bilignin, France. The book is dedicated to her.

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excerpt from The World is Round, by Gertrude Stein

It had never occurred to me that Stein might be appropriate for children, but as soon as I saw the book I wondered why it hadn’t. Stein’s unfettered manipulations of language, her ability to see language as material, seems like an ideal introduction to the creative possibilities of language for kids. I think resistance to Stein has been lodged in a misunderstanding similar to the one that continues to face the work of artist Jackson Pollock. No imitator, especially one intending ridicule, has ever managed to replicate in any degree what Stein or Pollock did with the materials of their art.

Stein’s way with language aside, the narrative in The World is Round is progressive in its content and tone. In this book, as New York Times Book Review writer Ellen Lewis Buell wrote rather beautifully on December 12, 1939, “—Ms. Stein has caught within this architectural structure of words which rhyme and rhyme again the essence of certain moods of childhood: the first exploration of one’s own personality, the feeling of lostness in a world of night skies and mountain peaks, sudden unreasoning emotions and impulses, the preoccupation with vagrant impression [sic] of little things filtering through the mind.” This book is written directly to its child audience. It seeks to speak to the child’s world-experience, needs and desires. According to Margaret Thacher Hurd, who writes an excellent afterword for the book, this was new and radical ground in children’s publishing at that time. I feel fortunate to have grown up in an era that benefits from such pioneering work, and I recognize the battles still being fought.

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excerpt from The World is Round, by Gertrude Stein

The book itself is also irresistible. This edition, published in 1988 by North Point Press, San Francisco, replicates the 1986 Arion Press Edition in which Clement Hurd revised his illustrations, re-cutting them in wood and linoleum blocks. They are stunning: spare and masterfully composed. They remind me of certain Matisse cut-outs, vibrant and deceptively simple. The pages of the book are rose-colored, and the typeface and illustrations are blue according to Stein’s vision (blue was apparently the true Rose’s favorite color). Upon seeing the original edition in 1939, Stein wrote Hurd that “the rose is very lovely particularly at its palest and the blue of the rabbit sky is quite wonderful, in short we are terribly pleased and hope that everybody will like it almost as much.” There were even hand-hooked rugs featuring some of the illustrations made to accompany the release of the book, as well as some wallpaper!

The second book found me by chance when prohibitive traffic drove me away from my initial bookstore destination to a smaller store. On the shelf of holiday books sat one lone, used copy of E.T.A. Hoffman’s The Nutcracker illustrated by Maurice Sendak, published in 1984 by Crown Publishers. The Nutcracker is the only full-length ballet I have ever seen, and since I saw it as a child around the same age as the story’s protagonist, it retains a special sort of power over my imagination. Sendak’s work too, though it had never occurred to me before, activates that same recess of my mind wherein the struggle to confront and assimilate the unknown engenders impulses that feel both potent and somewhat sinister.

Sendak was approached to create the designs for the stage production by Kent Stowell, then the artistic director of the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle, Washington in early 1981, when I was just a newborn. Of this meeting Stowell says, “I flew to New York, and we sat down and started talking about it. And I said, ‘Well, I want to do a Nutcracker,’ and [Sendak] says, ‘Well, I don’t even like ballet.'” At first Sendak resisted the idea, as he admits himself in the introduction to the book, because he thought the story lacked depth. But when Sendak read the original text by E.T.A. Hoffman, written in German in 1816, he saw fresh possibilities in the story’s “weird, dark qualities” that appealed to his sensibilities. Sendak learned that the prevailing stage version was a hybrid of a Russian Imperial Theater scenario from 1891 that was based on a French version of the story by Alexandre Dumas! Once again my mind boggles over the many interconnections just below the surface of books, like an immense root system providing relation, nourishment and exchange.

What finally ensured Sendak’s participation in the project was his affection for Tchaikovsky: “His music, bristling with implied action, has a subtext alive with wild child cries and belly noises. It is rare and genuine and does justice to the private world of children. One can, after all, count on the instincts of a genius.”

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excerpt from title page of The Nutcracker, by ETA Hoffman, illustrated by Maurice Sendak

The book itself is an accomplice to the ballet production. Inside are many of the costume and set designs, some illustrations made exclusively for the book, some meant to “animate the original stage designs,” and others Sendak simply wanted to create. Because of its various purposes, the artwork seems to illuminate rather than illustrate the story. This seems somehow appropriate, in a way, to a one-sided collaboration such as this in which the artist is responding to the story rather than working with the author directly. An interesting tension between the text and Sendak’s seductive visual representations arises, adding to the spell of the book as a whole. Are we outsiders, or can we approach the mystery at the work’s heart?

With the two books on the desk in front of me, I see their formal similarities: both are similar in dimension and sumptuously printed, both are illustrated by great artists in their own right, and both are written by authors who exuded a kind of expansive spirit in their many interests and abilities. Both works have renderings in theater, dance and music (see an article about a Stein adaptation here).

Each story has a young, female protagonist in a moment of crisis over her identity. Both stories have ambiguous resolutions. Both authors treat the complex inner lives of children with due gravity and attention. The difficulty in deciphering the intimations of their simultaneous appearance in my life lies in the question of mental direction, or thought path. Are they cautioning me to be more appreciative and respectful of the burgeoning individualities of my children? Or are they reminding me, at a time of year when memories of childhood are particularly powerful, to access more often the reserves of intensity set by during those years?

Interpretations aside, I note with pleasure the peculiar propensity of books to present themselves to our attention, without being sought, when they feel most relevant, and also the pleasure of using one’s body as a mode of connectivity between distinct works. I note the pleasure of being found.

Brief Bibliography:
D’Avila, Florangela. “In Seattle, Maurice Sendak’s ‘Wild’ ‘Nutcracker’ Reaches Its Final Act.” NPR.org. Dance. KPLU. Updated Dec 23, 2014. Link to article. Dec 14, 2015.
Hoffman, ETA. Introduction. Nutcracker. By Maurice Sendak. New York. Crown Publishers, 1984. ix-xiv. Print.
Stein, Gertrude. Afterword, “The World is Flat.” The World is Round. By Margaret Thacher Hurd.
Tran, Diep. “A Rose Is a Rose Is a Song Is a Song: Gertrude Stein’s ‘The World is Round’ Becomes a Musical.” NYTimes.com. Theater. Apr 16, 2014. Link to article. Dec.15, 2015.

Afterword, or a Little Blog Business

I have noticed lately that posting by Friday has proven difficult. As a remedy, I’m going to try moving Stackology’s publication day to Sunday. I’m devoted to producing quality work, as befitting my subject, and I hope this change will be conducive my efforts. Thanks for your participation as readers!

Unwriting the Review

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Jacob Wrestling with the Angel by Odilon Redon, c. 1907

Consuming book culture by reading reviews gives me, at the very least, a sense of participation. I might not be demonstrably part of the dialogue, but I can claim to know what the dialogue is concerning itself with. I can see that the dialogue is stratified, and that the strata that appear most vital are working in spite of other risk-averse strata to reconfigure the suspect value systems that have dominated it’s contours in the past.

I can also feel a rise in the demand for heretofore peripheral authors and poets (in America this seems to mean non-english writers and anyone other than white-male-middle-class-heterosexuals), and this is absolutely something to rejoice, loudly, but I resist the implication that this requires a simultaneous disavowal of our human literary heritage. I’d really just prefer every worthy voice to have a place at the literary table, like a Camelot of books. When I read reviews, what I want is to feel the depth and breadth of literature surging just beneath its surface, totally and incredibly unencompassable. This would require some possibly uncomfortable repositioning of the reviewer.

Presumably, to review a book is first to read it, and then to look back through it in order to come to some conclusions about it. This is not unlike what a reader does. The moment the reader undertakes to write about the work the issue of motive arises, and motive is complex and slippery. All that the reader/reviewer as an individual brings to the reading performance that is review writing makes it fresh and intriguing, but it also troubles its legitimacy. This ambiguity is not necessarily negative, and might indeed be a sort of speculative and dynamic space when embraced or acknowledged.

When I approach a literary review, I have needs. It is usually clear within the first few paragraphs whether or not they will be met. The review needs to expose me to things that I had not already encountered, like another book whose content might enrich the book in review, or another author whose work keeps some company with the author in review, or an element within the author’s biography that might provide entry into the work in review, or an insight that deepens my experience of the work in review, etc. These are legitimate, readerly desires. The problem is that, after awhile, the phrase “in review” starts to invoke the same things the antiquated surgical phrase “in theater” used to invoke. Is this the way to treat the offering a writer makes of a work?

What I do not need from a review are terminal value pronouncements or the sense that the reviewer is jockeying for some kind of dominion over the work. The problem may be that these two things are intrinsic to the review form. A review is already juridical. It keeps authority to itself in its act of “speaking over” a text. It seeks a kind of closure. Is this closure necessary? If our consumption of a text means that it becomes, for good or ill, part of us, do we need to package it tidily, or can we let it stew?

Readers ought to reserve the right to exercise their critical faculties and wrestle with a work accordingly. There is so much pleasure in that wrestling! And there is pleasure in witnessing the wrestling of others. The essay form offers a rich if unoriginal alternative to the review form. An essay is an attempt, a striving, a weighing, an examination. An essay can move within a text tenderly or violently, because it has a responsibility to its search. The essay offers an alternative, yes, but what more could be done in the way of readerly response? What if we approach each work individually, seeking the response-form proper to the work? What might this look like? Like bodies repositioning in order to optimize contact? Like wrestling? Like embrace?

The Book Snob Inside

photo (2)Gloom and solemnity are entirely out of place in even the most rigorous study of an art originally intended to make glad the heart of man.

-Ezra Pound, ABCs of Reading

When I first noticed that the people whom I asked “so, what are you reading lately?” often began their responses with the disclaimer “oh, nothing you’d be interested in,” I realized that I had a problem. I also realized that the problem was somewhat widespread among the literary.

In a way, readers are always in the company of the books they’ve read like a statement of predisposition. If we’re aware that a certain reader favors one sort of book we assume that we can predict what other sorts of books might attract or repel that reader.

It’s easy to prize our own literary habits over everyone else’s, and it’s easy to find fault in the choices of others by stacking books in highbrow piles and lowbrow piles. It’s pleasurable to think that no other readers are so submerged in the lives of books or so able to appreciate their worth as we are. This is the kind of self-indulgent, self-elevating thinking that is apt to bring on the condition of book snobbery.

The choices a reader makes have to do with the reader’s needs, and a reader’s needs are subject to fluctuations. This fact, observable in ourselves, should pause our evaluations of others. What might happen if we were to first seek deeper recognitions when encountering another reader? Would our connections over books be strengthened and elaborated if we were to consider and celebrate the reading desire before examining the reader’s choices? Should we be asking, “so, what have you felt like reading lately”?

Maybe the tendency to book snobbery has something to do with the individual nature of the act of reading itself. Whether or not a reader associates with a community of readers in some way, the reading act is one that happens alone and in a private space. A reader develops and hones a fine ability to exclude ambient activity at will. (A reader with children develops this talent to olympic proportions.) Because of this, the reader inhabits a willfully exclusive place. Maybe it isn’t too much of a leap from one expression of exclusivity to another.

In the isolation of the reading space the reader goes through extraordinary things. Complex neural systems are at play activating emotions, senses and integrations. In the upheaval of the moment it is difficult to imagine that someone else might have the capacity to empathize with or even comprehend our response. The reader is isolated in a kind of rapture. The sweetness and violence of this feeling is somewhere near the heart of the desire to read.

Exposing an experience that was meaningful to us to someone else is dangerous. Maybe book snobbery is a way of erecting barriers, of closing vulnerabilities. What might we discover if we allow these interior experiences to be an impetus to connect? What if we are more open to these connections when they are offered? How might our own literary lives be enriched, or our relationships in general?

To wit, a possible bookcover:

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Posing a Literary Invitation

openPray thee, take care, that tak’st my book in hand,
To read it well: that is, to understand.
-Ben Jonson, Epigram I

Go, and take the little book which is open in the hand. Take it, and eat it up; and it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey, but it shall make thy belly bitter.
Revelation x

Oh, Grow to know me. I am not happy. I will be open.
-Muriel Rukeyser, “Effort at Speech Between Two People”

A reader is subject to invitations. A book is closed, but it might be opened. Is it worth the risk?

A literary invitation is private and particular as well as open and universal. From each encounter it seeks acceptance and a certain amount of attention.

What the invitation has to accomplish is intrigue, and so provocation is its nature.

An invitation might be considered a kind of a promise, albeit an ambivalent one, and so no invitation is accepted without just hesitation.

Of the receiver little is required but to attend; some trust is involved.

The question that hangs at the end of the invitation is vulnerability. Care must be taken on both ends.

I once heard the poet Jane Hirshfield describe a practice of seeking the divine in every stranger. She demonstrated this by tilting her head sideways inquisitively, peering at the invisible stranger and saying “Buddha?” with the smile of someone on the cusp of recognition. This is an old idea. To the Greeks the gods always dwelt in the most unlikely form. It’s an idea with positive social implications; imagine everyone treating each other like gods.

When I think about it, I am a person who approaches invitations in a very guarded way. Will my attendance be rewarded? What will it cost? Is it the right time? My hands are up, palms outward in that gesture we use to mean non-involvement. When I think about it, I wonder what I’ve missed with my hands in this shape.

What if in our conception of books as objects we embedded the act of opening into the book-form in order to ready ourselves to receive/read? In other words, to open a book we have to become open ourselves. It isn’t easy or safe. It might take practice. We have to understand outer appearance as potentially misleading. We have to conduct our minds the way a person might conduct a group of diverse instruments into a sort of fugue that will actively build toward understanding. Curiosity can vibrate in its own tone along with unbias, generosity, various experiences, conscious moderation of judgement and all the other particular things a particular invitation might invoke.

Once our minds are composed, once we’ve gotten past appearances, the last obstacle is fear. I think the cost of accepting an invitation might be a willingness to be bruised, or punctured or burdened. Maybe this is the offering a reader makes when approaching a text or accepting an invitation. Maybe the interchange between book and reader has a sort of sacred aspect to it in that the reader makes an offering in order to receive something in return, and the nature of this thing is unknown until the moment it arrives. Fear and potential should be balanced, and the reader should decide which is weightier.

It is risky to accept an invitation, but is it riskier to refuse?

Prospectus

Books inhabit our spaces. As objects, they populate our physical experiences in nearly the same way that other people do, as beings with unfixed interior lives around which we constantly reconfigure ourselves. The daily interactions we have with books deserve scrutiny and consideration, and it may be that greater attentiveness will clarify and optimize these relationships.

In this site the habits, interrelations and generations of books will be observed and recorded with particular attention to their community-forming tendencies. Examinations of the ways people handle books, and cohabit with them and use them to connect with other people will be made. In this site the invitations books offer will be accepted, no attempt will be made toward perfection and no divergence or digression avoided.

The question guiding this inquiry will be simply this: how do books live with us? More succinctly, if all book-encounters happen within a physical context, how does that context, in particular a reader’s material habits, influence the way books are meaningful to us and direct our literary explorations and thought? The working hypothesis will be that mindful reading can have a dynamic impact on our experience of books and the way we integrate their content into our thinking. To determine the nature of this impact is the work of this site.

A search for strategies of mindful reading will require experiments, some of which will certainly fail, and so I’ll have to learn to embrace failure. It will require me to draw from my own environment, thereby exposing myself in uneasy ways. I’ll also need to visit the places books congregate and gather other personal accounts, and these things will require me to work past my timidity and get comfortable with feeling awkward.

I’ll post my findings every Friday in the hope that eventually patterns will emerge and this study of stacks will gain form and direction. But more importantly, it’s my hope that the act of writing about reading can open a practice that is so essentially solitary into a space where substantial connections can grow, and that you, reader, will become one of those connections.