Having been teaching and studying literature, and reading and writing for a long time, I’ve amassed a small library of books. They’re everywhere… all over the house. I haven’t quite made the leap to the e-reader yet, partially because I remember The Great CD Conversion of 1988 during which I spent a small fortune (for a 16 year old) replacing all my music cassettes. The thought of replacing just a tiny percentage of my book collection (say, the Joyce Carol Oates part, for example) is just too much to absorb. Plus, books are just prettier than an e-reader. I love how they look piled in a stack. I love moving them from the “To Read” stack to the “Finished” shelf. And some of their covers are nothing short of exquisite. In many cases, commissioned artists design those covers. And so a real paper and cardboard book is a work of art, through and through.
It’s sad to think of a book in a dumpster. In the landfill. But to hoard every book I’ve ever owned to prevent it from ending up in the trash is… well… hoarding. The neat freak in me can’t do that.
Much to my relief, my inner neat freak and my inner art lover reconciled once and for all when Brandy and I attended Massanutten Regional Library’s Altered Books Contest and Gallery last Friday. The practice of altering gives old, perhaps worn out books — books on the very brink of disposal — a new life and purpose. Their tattered pages no longer have endure the flips and tugs of careless readers; that pressure is gone. All an altered book has to do anymore is sit somewhere and look awesome, interesting, beautiful. The newly rendered “book” even gets a new name, as I noticed at the library’s display. Truly, a rebirth.
So we browsed the altered books, submitted for competition by adults (ages 18 and older) and youngsters (ages 12 – 17). We saw the piece created by last year’s contest winner, Diane Landis, entitled In a Dark, Dark House — she’d used several discarded books to create a majestic castle. Some were quite useful… like Carol K. Smith’s Hooked on Books. She turned books into a coat rack with a frame. Some were really large, like From Tree to Book to Tree Again — a big tree sculpture made by several artists out of pages of books.
Nancy Dauer built this huge loom thing out of torn up and disassembled books (From Words to Yarns — ha ha!). And Ben Fraits somehow glued the pages of his books together so they became completely solid, then carved them like a block of wood.
Anna Thornbury and Andrew Shantz cleverly constructed literal interpretations of their books. For example, a wooden stake pierced the cover of the book Dracula; the book Titanic appeared to be split in half by an iceberg; Joan of Arc was partially charred. They called this collection A Novel Death.
The kids’ entries were even more impressive. Explosion featured origami exploding from the center of a school textbook. For Bird’s Eye View, Chantel Pence made a diorama out of a book. And in Alice is Stuck in Wonderland, a barbie doll Alice protrudes — stuck, indeed — from the center of the book.
All this awesomely creative art work simply is not something you can do with your Kindle. Sorry. Soon the library will announce winners in both categories — adult and youth — the winning “books” will be on display April 14 – 19. Can’t wait to find out how this story ends! And stay tuned for more photos this week!
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