Here’s an excerpt from a new idea I’m playing around with.
After José Saramago
The stacks of books and papers on her desk, the tumble of folio, recto and verso, that spilled across two, no, four, no, five tables, sturdy wooden dark standing tables surrounded her and constituted the workshop of Viola the bookbinder. Bookbinding was an old art. Not the oldest art in the world by any means, but one of the oldest in history. A piece of literate history, anyway. She connected to it that way, endpapers and headlines, folios and book covers, illustrations, words, texts. The soul of a book was more than the sum of its parts. If her father had not taught her bookbinding she might have become a scientist or a rabbi, yes, they did have women rabbis these days, ever since the 1970s. And when her friends had gone off after college in the 1980s to become Wall Street traders or go to law school – so many lawyers in her crowd of college compatriots – Viola set up her workshop on the third floor of a 1920s brick building in her childhood neighborhood, a room with an abundance of natural light and a wealth of passing people who waited at the bus stop for downtown or went into the park opposite. She used to hope when she first saw the place that the walls held secrets, that ghosts of the previous tenants would keep her company on those long days of hand-binding books on her work tables. She used to listen to NPR all day when she first started, until she gave up on news radio. Now it was the local jazz station alternating Miles Davis and Oscar Peterson, with a little Brubeck thrown in. The jazz music would strangely suit the rhythms of fitting the hard boards in their cloth covers, gauging the gutter and setting the foot and, anchoring the signatures into the text block. Music was a little-known companion to books, Viola often thought, and the playlist of her day took her into history and back to the present as she formed the hand-bound books for her customers, many of them Asian or European, where the book had long been conveyor and purveyor of a certain economic class. Gauze, cardboard, and adhesive. Hinge and corner. Top edge. Footband.
Thanks for reading!