For the last six years I’ve been writing a bilingual novel called Bookworm.
What is it about?
It is about a Psychology PhD student doing research on the habits of book buyers and readers that runs into a society of people that get together to eat books. While he is helping an elderly obsessed bookmaker to organize her bookshelf, a book that is considered to be delicatessen by the society, ends up in his hands. He’s telling the readers his version of the events to ask for their help deciding if the society gets to eat it.
Whether he wants to narrate with logic or causality the events that unfold or just relate as witness to indescribable circumstances, along the story, the narrator discover that there are experiences and instances that escape interpretation. He stumbles upon the beauty of being present, feeling the material and immediate -rather than the conceptual- as an approach to accept and enjoy the invitation to be part of existence, without the pressure of making sense and finding meaning in every act.
Books in the story illustrate the tension between material and immaterial qualities, single and wholesome views, and individualized and collective experience.
Why do I want to write a novel?
The purpose is to celebrate the nature of books as material artifacts and the uniqueness of the process of making them and distributing them, from the moment the paper is made to the object that reaches a shelf in a home and forms a bond with its owner. The novel pays tribute to the mental, spiritual and biological appetites that lay beyond the digestion of food and nourishment for body and soul.
I want to elaborate on the relationships that readers establish with books: the way they organize them, the ones they choose to keep or give away, the ones they buy and how they buy them, the places of books in a particular house, the space they occupy in their memories and what kind of feelings they attached to them in different stages of their lives. When and how do you decide to buy or read a book? What if the book choose you instead of you choosing it? The possibility of a higher synchronicity behind the place and time when someone reads a book and why they chose that one in that precise moment seems fascinating.
Looking at some elements in the history of traditional bookmaking, the democratization of ideas that printing brought, and the mythology behind the uniqueness of signed or first editions, rare and handmade books, I want to explore the notion of sharing a book, not only as the experience of reading the same text, but as material and energetic connection that passes from hand to hand.
Each of the characters brings a perspective or is involved in a particular stage of the process of creating a book. There is a binder/ bookmaker, a commercial printer, an editor, a reviewer, and on purpose, there are no writers, as I want to keep the focus on the material stages, to deconstruct the final product once it has left the hands of the author’s and his/her influence on the creation and organization of ideas.
Maybe a bilingual book?
My initial idea was to write a bilingual novel with two parts that mirror each other, the first one is narrated by a male character and is written in English; the second one is narrated by a female character and is written in Spanish.
Both parts shared a similar story line, but there are several purposes to having it change gender: I wanted to play with the notion of duality, especially in language, illustrate the notion of the elements “lost in translation,” and play with the idea of different versions of a story. I set the constrain of translating/rewriting the novel as an exercise to explore interesting ways to transcend common dualities in my surroundings, Spanish and English, female and male instincts and behaviors, and digital and print. I also thought it’d be a neat metaphor to illustrate new ways of reading and readers in a globalized world, to appreciate the variety of books and text that is being produce, the richness of different media for different messages, and the playfulness of bilingual minds.