[Editor’s Note: This series of Duration, Sequence & Structure posts is a text/image version of a collaborative talk that was given by Kyle Schlesinger and I at the 2012 College Book Art Association conference in the Bay Area. One section will be posted every day of this week. This is the first.]
It was he told me I'd begun all wrong, that I should have begun differently. He must be right. I began at the beginning, like an old ballocks, can you imagine that? Here's my beginning. Because they're keeping it apparently. I took a lot of trouble with it. Here it is. It gave me a lot of trouble. It was the beginning, do you understand? Whereas now it's nearly the end. Is what I do now any better? I don't know. That's beside the point. Here's my beginning. It must mean something, or they wouldn't keep it. Here it is.
—Beckett, Molloy

[KS] Beginning at the beginning is difficult. Where does the book begin? I hand you the book, a book you’ve never seen before, and your experience of it begins. Although you don’t know this book, you know it is a book because the image of it resembles books you’ve seen before. You take it in your hands. You thumb the fore-edge, grasp the spine, turn it around, read the title, open it, snap it closed, read the last blurb, get bored, read the title again, adjust the dust jacket, feel nervous, self-conscious. So you break the tension, you ask me to sign. Pencil or pen? You smile, I laugh. Receiving the book is a strange performance or ritual. The book stops you, asks you to ask yourself what you’re doing. What are you looking for when you open it? A good book is a good question, not an answer, not “about” anything or anyone. What can you learn from the book before reading (as such) begins? How do you enter? The book doesn’t stop, which is why it is useless to describe the book in terms of “time.” The book goes on—doesn’t miss a beat. It doesn’t need me. You either. The book I am reading now isn’t the first, but it might be my last: any book, anywhere, anyone, anytime. This book is one in a sequence of books within an ever-broadening memory of the object. There is no book, only books. The book eludes you the moment you perceive it. It will always be incomplete, a sequence of points of perception that split the past and the future. The book is already gone.

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