uncertain cities

words and sequences of them by Rhett Davis

Reading: S. by JJ Abrams & Doug Dorst

I've just started a PhD, you see, and I'm looking at books that use different mediums and forms to convey their fictions. I've just finished JJ Abrams & Doug Dorst's project, 'S.' The premise: two university students encounter each other in the margins of an old library book by a mysterious early 20th century author. The book we hold is this old library book that they have defaced with their scribblings, messages, postcards, and other clues and ephemera. The thing is: they have written on the book at different times, after certain events have happened. There are around five narratives to follow: the narrative of the book, the narrative of the writer and translator of the book, and the narratives of the two university students at the start, in the middle, and at the end of the journey. It's all very confusing, and it's a slow read. I found I had to change gears every page to work out where I was at in each story. Others have suggested reading each narrative at a time - i.e. the book text first, then the margin stories. Not sure - I think it's better to take it all in at once. It feels like it was designed that way. It's an amazing read, and being the sort of idiot I am, I loved coming across a napkin with a map on it, or a postcard, or some other artefact. It's beautifully produced. As with much of Abrams' work, I found myself unsure of where it landed by the end and what the point of any of it actually was. It was clever, but maybe trying to be cleverer than it was. It was a fun ride though.