Author of The Things Things Say, Jonathan Lamb has trawled the Internet Archive to link us to 18th and early 19th century examples of the “it-narrative,” stories told from the perspective of a thing such as a watch, a coin or a mouse and generally comic and all-too human in the telling. And yet, Lamb observes,
… for a number of reasons this is seldom how [the it-narrative] deserves to be read. Whether it is owing to its origin and terminus in the narratives of slaves, or to its coincidence with the financial revolution and the growing unaccountability of mass human behaviour, or to the growing appetite for print ephemera, or to the end of feudal tenures and the resulting anomalies of personal portable property, or to the irreversible metamorphoses precipitated by the holocaust, ordinary things situated in banal circumstances develop a salience that has nothing to do with symbolism or hidden meaning. They are just there, eying their human adversaries, implacable and meditating affronts.
Lamb might have added another reason: the growth of the Internet, book art or bookwork and prediction of the printed book’s demise. Until that demise, will our books, just there on their shelves above the lampshade late at night, sit “implacable and meditating affronts”?
Jonathan Lamb, The Implacability of Things at The Public Domain Review | Material World on 9th November 2012 at 11:01 am.
- Open Knowledge Foundation: What We Hope the Digital Public Library of America Will Become (okfn.org)
- Fundraiser for the Public Domain Review (boingboing.net)
- The Things Things Say (amazon.com)
- Internet Archive (archive.org)