My library table is covered with blade tools, blebs of glue, and shards of a book. I have a guillotine paper trimmer, a drywall knife with retractable razor blade, and a thick-shanked butcher knife. I use each in succession, trying to find an efficient workflow for cutting the book apart. And I’m remembering wistfully a five-ton paper shear that I once had the opportunity to buy from a book bindery. I had ready cash then and wherewithal to move the machine, amazingly, but no good place to keep it. It’d come in handy right about now.
The book is Revolution of the Mind, Mark Polizzotti’s monumental biography of Surrealist poet André Breton. I’ve been reading an audio recording of it for several weeks. I want to scan the printed book into a digital text so I can quote it and make notes. Scanning a hardcover copy of a 754-page book, binding intact, presents a host of physical and ergonomic challenges. So I bought a second copy of the book to cut apart. It isn’t as easy as I thought. The hardest step is overcoming a lifetime of literacy acculturation that groomed me to respect books, not destroy them.
Finding an efficient workflow for accessibility – this is the story of my life as a reader and writer. I was reminded of this today when VirtualDavis posted the video, Memories of a Scanner, pointing to its possibilities as a new genre of digital story-telling. I immediately thought of the title of Vladimir Nabokov’s memoir, Speak, Memory. Blind readers use scanners every day to process the flotsam and jetsam of visual culture. How could we adapt this genre of scanner narratives to document our experiences and workflows – and, of course, make them fully accessible through the process?