the big book

(from The Journal of Typographic Research, July 1968)

Figure 5. The Big Book, 1964–1967, by Alison Knowles. Courtesy of the artist.

The Big Book is not a product, but a process, and the person using the Book must accept himself as part of the process, discarding enough reserve to bend over and enter the Book – flexing, flowing, discarding stances. The Big Book cannot be know without being entered, and it cannot be entered without being modified – so that getting to know it alters it, even as it alters us, and there can be no one interpretation.

So down on hands and knees then, and through the cover, on through a hole burned in page of vinyl artifice, and down onto belly to crawl through a tunnel in a wall of artificial grass and water, imitating a descent, but actually remaining on floor level. After wiggling through the tunnel, one enters the apartment, an image of unpretentious Manhattan loft living in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. This apparent underworld, such as an epic hero usually enters, presents the processes of life nonchalantly, without varnish. Everything is useful here; there are aspirin, books, cans o soup, and other ordinary household objects. The telephone works, the stove will heat water for tea. The acceptance of this mundane, workaday underworld has the effect of elevating it, and while one enters through a tunnel, one exits through a window, and is free to examine the gallery of goats on page 4, or to climb a short ladder which moves on casters, simulating an experience of attaining precarious heights. Of course The Big Book can be read backwards or sideways, and anyone else who takes this journey will read it differently. But from any angle, to be in The Big Book is necessarily to be as mobile, kinetic, audial, visual, energetic, and beautiful, as it is.

—William S. Wilson, New York

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