Sep 19, 2011

Eat That Book

On the eve of the Cambridge conference entitled "Eating Words: Text, Image, Food", a few hardy forks assembled at our warehouse to conduct Plurabelle Edible Book 1. Designed as an improvised mixture between a seminar and a performance, the event attracted about a dozen attendees who spoke about their secret "book to mouth" desires, admitted to past bibliophagic engagements, ate a book, and watched others eating one. The typographic appetizers proved popular, Roasted Bookwheat was perhaps a bit dry, and the Bookbay Mix a bit too salty, said some. The books, however, were just right.

Plurabelle has been on the forefront of bibliophagy for a long time. As a cook may combine nutmeg and tomato sauce, balsamico and double cream, asparagus and strawberries, so we invite our website visitors to browse ourstock by freely combining subject terms on our kitchen page. We have issued "Eat more books" stickers, we have a whole gallery of how to prepare a book for consumption. We also look after our little pet crocodile in one of our shelves which says the same:

In short, the combination of our interest in the culinary enjoyment of books, and the conference entitled "Eating Words: Text, Image, Food" produced a perfect opportunity. This was the moment to leave behind the level of metaphorical signification and to get down to it. We started with Bookwheat (gluten free, of course)...


and so to printed matter pure and simple

what a meal!

yummy, that was good


But what does this all mean? For a long time, literary critics subscribed to the notion (aka hermeneutic ideology) of the unlimited reach of understanding, emblematically depicted in the nail-eating ostrich.

The ostrich consumes a nail to show the ability of the understanding  (spiritus) to
conquer even the most difficult material (Einaudi)

Just as the ostrich can digest nails, so the scholar of writing can make sense of the strangest book. Interpretation would never reach a limit. Perhaps Plurabelle Edible Book 1 is a parody of this founding metaphor of the discipline which continues to give us steady supply of English Majors (including this very bookseller), engaging the limits of understanding in a less then interpretative manner. Are we enacting a love-hate relationship with books, which a analyst would interpret for us, or was the event last week a way to glimpse over the walls of the interpretative attitude, into the promised land of "Stop Making Sense"?

For this reason, the true hero of the evening was the homovorous book, a highest level of the carnivorous plants
The Homovorous (man-eating) Book. Design, concept and artwork by Laura Nuttall (© 2011)

This philosophical object (Thanks Laura!) reminds us of the limits of the digestive paradigm of spiritus durissma coquit. Grammatically speaking, bibliophagy is transitive: If you devour a book, you soon enough find yourself consumed by the book. The reciprocal nature of subject and object in the process of engaging with writing offers plenty of .. food for thought.