Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek

  • Music:

Using the Page.

I am currently rereading George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. Rereading isn't a huge thing in today's culture and, being that I am part of this culture, it's not a huge thing to me, either. But I return to Orwell's work regularly, even though there are a a couple of books of his I haven't read. But I return--I return to the essays, mostly, but also the books, and one of the reasons for this, I think, is that Orwell is the base for me as an author. There are things that I admire in Orwell: his honesty, his fierce and independent morality that acknowledges the equality of humans no matter their class and race (though he has never struck me as an author concerned with the rights of women) and, most of all, his ability to bring these things into his writing while keeping it both compassionate and passionate.

It is curious, but till that moment I had never realised what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man. When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle, I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide. This man was not dying, he was alive just as we were alive. All the organs of his body were working--bowels digesting food, skin renewing itself, nails growing, tissues forming--all toiling away in solemn foolery. His nails would still be growing when he stood on the drop, when he was falling through the air with a tenth of a second to live. His eyes saw the yellow gravel and the grey walls, and his brain still remembered, foresaw, reasoned--reasoned even about puddles. He and we were a party of men walking together, seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding the same world; and in two minutes, with a sudden snap, one of use would be gone--one mind less, one world less.

That's from the Hanging.

But, anyhow, y'know, I am rereading Nineteen Eighty-Four, but the edition I am reading was put out in 1999--maybe early 200. It was done to celebrate the end of the 20th Century, or fifty years after Orwell's death, I can't remember which, but the book was released in a large hardcover with illustrations by Alex Williamson and text design by Robbie Mahoney. When I bought the book, I had no desire to read it at the time, so it's sat round on my shelf, purchased by the knowledge that one day I'd read it. In fact, the first time I read Nineteen Eighty-Four, I really quite disliked it, but as with what happens some times when I have a dislike to something, I was absolutely fascinated by it, and rereading it removed that dislike, which I couldn't even begin to explain to you nowadays. At any rate, I am rereading again, and I am fascinated by the way in which Mahoney has rearranged the text in the book. There are simple things, such as when Winston is writing in his diary, and Mahoney has moved the text out of the paragraph flow and placed them onto little, pale yellow slips and italicised to suggest handwriting. This, of course, ties neatly into the more interesting use of Two Minutes Hate, which is highlighted in a bright yellow for the words. When the Two Minutes Hate takes place, Mahoney highlights the entire text in this bright yellow, tying in the ugly emotions that Winston feels at the time to the more controlled, burning hate he feels for Big Brother as he writes in his diary through the colour similarities.

It's an interesting thing to read, because Mahoney, more than Williamson, whose art I quite like, has added a new layer of reading to the book. I suppose others might find it more a gimmick that anything else, but I'm really quite fascinated by the ways that you can use page space. Originally, in A Year in the City* I had planned to use different fonts, images, and a few other techniques, but I had to eventually push this to the side due to time concerns. I want to finish this thing, not keep doing it for another five years, which is, I think, what it would take me to find work up to a level of text design that I would be happy with. There is also the more practical concern of getting such a book published, but maybe I'll be in a position where I will be able to publish the book in such an elaborate thing. If so, I'll hire someone who knows about this stuff, and work with them.

Still, with that said, I find myself working with page space and movement. The Dialogues have, from a design point of view, been ripped apart and reassembled by the Artist and I (well, mostly the Artist, who seems to enjoy her time of destruction because it makes me look simple and her mildly brilliant) and the result is that, while the text is the same, they are new pieces in every way that it counts. Of course, once all the art and layouts are done, the text will be altered a little here and there to make everything flow. Plus, the Pope is dead, and the Old Pope Jokes are, well, old. But it's a fascinating process, and I find myself, in my head, building a short story that uses page space in such a way that it will likely require two bits of writing: the first being the text used to convey the story, and the second being the instructions on how they are to be laid out on each page. Of course, how such a thing will get published, I've no idea, but the idea is fun and I'm going to keep it at about a thousand words, which is a sort of controlled experiment for this sort of thing in both writing and trying to get it published. Should be interesting, if to see only how it will fail.

I'm sure this fascinates you all.

* A Year in the City is the novel I have written for my doctorate. 'The Dreaming City' which appears in The Year's Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy and Leviathan Four: Cities is the opening seasonal chapter, Summer, from the book. It's slightly different in the novel, however. I'm about a month from having it finished.
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