The Spine & The Faces


There is a quote from an 11th Century Persian, Naser-e-Khosrow, about books : a book “has only one spine but a hundred faces”——— so I like this but am sitting here in this warm air, the segments of a ‘cat’ transforming behind a fence, and thinking how I like  this and how Old it is and people have tried to convince me , scissors or staplers to the throat, that this is some sort of new proposition that people invented like—like—Recently or maybe one of the beet-faced gentlemen or gentlewomen so threatening me had the abiding pleasure of studying under these BEACONS OF CAUSAL APPRAISAL


Now by this old text, this quote that was itself, on my part, taken from Julio Cortázar, represented and I get to thinking :

why a hundred? why not a thousand a million fifty zeros et cetera et cetera and the next step being OLD you know Hey! There are so many faces of a book that you can’t count them, but at the same time this is coming from the idea that you a open a book and greet the face that greets you and it’s your very own—not Your Face (maybe your nose?) but this face is constantly changing, maybe for a moment the eyes are the wet eyes of a girl you love, a boy you love, and so on and so forth so that you open this book and turn the pages every few minutes and receive a stream (finite?) of faces.  But that’s all kind of dry stuff; that counting…

            So there’s one, 1, a face—a reader (and if you want to get pedantic…let ‘a face’ = stream of (finite?) faces apprehended (do not all faces change, while being ‘faces’?) by a reader…= ‘a face’… a face).  But the guy said a hundred faces and we can imagine more and more and more… but we start getting somewhere counting readers (also if a reader reads a book again, add one to sum of readers (happy?)) and there are only so many readers, in as much as there are only so many people.  And people die and their faces decompose with their exquisite grey matter and if they had opened the pages of Our Given Book, they were one of Our Reader and another face (stream of faces (finite?)) rots away, evaporates, and so, like any other species, our book goes on, procreating, perishing in parts, finding niches, but, we can hope, generally going on…for all of this bound by the existence of Us and all the readers out there in order live, to breath and breed, to sleep no more.

            And it draws the mind to Brine Shrimp, Sea Monkeys, who can lie dormant against the sandstone for thousands of years.  (Years of Absence for the Brine Shrimp).  But, when submerged again in their favored aqueous environs, Sea Monkeys unfurl and breed and die and flourish in niches in their world around them.

            And a book may lose its faces to time and favor, remain within the sandstone cover and spine of a handful of print copies (I have seen a text once that looked as though it had suffered from some terrible radiation, pages all mixed up across the floor like scrambled DNA), or perhaps a few remnant faces remaining like Last Unicorns, Elephant Birds, a last, massive Mastodon wandering through dusty library shelves, past neglected carrels, knocking over other books in its wake (to unfurl, to open in a stream of faces (finite?)), or perhaps sitting before glowing computer screens for hours havened within the dim refuges of Academic Rectitude.

            But, whether frozen in their spines like stilled Brine Shrimp or lingering still by means of a few librarians, a vague professor, at any time the rain can come and bring with it the deluge of faces—beautiful, varied faces marching again over the earth—perhaps trammeling a daisy, planting a rose—and, at times, driving a member of our neighboring race to love or suicide.



Filed under brine shrimp, extinction, hibernation, julio cortazar, meme, memes, Naser-e-Khosrow, reading, Sea Monkeys, text

2 responses to “The Spine & The Faces

  1. So here’s my question:

    I read, say, *Hopscotch*, and I encounter a hundred faces. I re-read *Hopscotch* maybe ten years later and I encounter a hundred faces, about eighty-five of which were the same as before, maybe with some more wrinkles this time.

    You read *Hopscotch* and encounter a hundred faces, fifteen of which were exclusively in my first reading, fifteen of which were exclusively in my second reading, and thirty of which appeared in both my readings.

    Is there ever a face that appears in everyone’s reading, or even in, say 95%. Will everyone who reads *Don Quijote* see the same wilted weed of a man dragging himself back home after his defeat at the Bachelor’s hands? Will they know the same thin flesh that I know, the same protruding eyes, empty as winter sun?

    Will they have seen how his lance drags behind him, etching his his failure, as he slumps bakc home, like a scar clear across the face of Spain? Will they see the same scar on Don Quijote’s cheek?

    Does it matter in the least if they don’t?

  2. Dudes & Dudettes,

    My sincerest apologies. What was I thinking? Some sword scar? on Don Quijote?

    No, he’s dragging the lance so that its handle rubs against the ground — it’s a gash like an eraser leaves when it rubs through the page, or maybe, better yet, just that lightest eraser burn, the sort of minor disfigurement that tells you something is absent, an undue brightness of the paper.

    Which is all to say: maybe Heraclitus is right, we never step into the same book twice, even when we’ve read it only once.

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