This book, S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst, gave me the most enjoyable reading experience I’ve had in a long time. It’s such an unusual book — one critic discussed it as “a celebration of the book as a physical thing” — and one that I enjoyed immensely. (Interestingly, even the reviews on the iTunes ebook page for S. endorse buying the physical book in order to experience the text as it was intended to be experienced: in hard copy.) The book is literally stuffed full of postcards, letters, and other assorted artifacts (see photo above from The New Yorker), and the margins of each page are filled with notes written by two characters outside the world of the novel (see photo below from The Independent). Of course, the novel itself is fictional: a book called Ship of Theseus by the fictitious author V.M. Straka. “Straka’s” novel can be read on its own without the separate narrative of Jen and Eric (authors of the colorful marginalia adorning the margins like springtime blooms), but I enjoyed reading the two stories alongside each other (especially as the marginal storyline is interwoven with Straka’s mysterious life).
This was a book, much like Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves, that I initially opened and thought, “How the hell am I going to read this?” However, it wasn’t as complicated as I initially thought it might be. I simply read Ship of Theseus and followed Jen and Eric’s comments (which come out of or refer to lines in Straka’s novel) as they arose. It was the most adventurous literary journey I’ve been on in years, and I only wish all of Straka’s other 18 novels weren’t simply figments of Dorst’s and Abrams’ imaginations. Alas, I suppose I shall have to await the publication of subsequent experiments from these two authors (and keep my fingers crossed that more are forthcoming).
Fans across the globe have been compiling information related to characters and events in S. which, if you get as addicted to the book as I did, are quite interesting. Some of my favorites are Justin Garver’s timeline, “The Monkey Dance (Falling Down the S. Rabbit Hole)“, and The S. Files 22. Some mysterious sites I haven’t fully explored yet are whoisstraka, Radio Straka, and a few Twitter feeds (@EricHusch, @JenTheUndergrad, and @MCrinitus)
P.S. If you’ve read or are reading the book and haven’t found these websites yet, check them out:
GOOD FOR: Those looking for a unique reading experience, readers who want to slow down and enjoy their next read, and anyone who is (like me) madly in love with books — not just stories, but books themselves.
BAD FOR: Dedicated ebook readers, those who dislike multiple storylines occurring simultaneously, and people seeking a nice, pleasant, light read.