Dear Eater, Don't Eat
Book Nutrition Facts, Book Eating Festivals, & Book of Hours Cake
Wikipedia’s List of Minor Secular Observances is a slew of can’t-miss holidays, like CAPS LOCK DAY (June 28) and World UFO Day (July 2). So far, 2022 is looking like a great year to observe World Vasectomy Day (October 18). That gives us all six months [ample time] to recover from our vasectomies before the next Edible Book Festival (April 1). According to the Festival’s founders, April Fools’ day is “the perfect day to eat your words and play with them.”
In 2000, artist Béatrice Coron and Judith A. Hoffberg (best known for publishing Umbrella from 1978-2008, a periodical about artist books) began the Edible Book Festival. Together with a table of Thanksgiving guests (who were also book artists), Coron and Hoffberg concocted the idea of an annual book eating celebration.
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As someone who’s spent a few Thanksgivingswith book artists, I can just picture it: in an old house somewhere, a table is laden with elaborate entrées. Someone has draped a sheet over the work bench in the living room, to prevent guests from setting drinks on the poco proof press. The appetizers are assembled with a remarkable degree of precision; are those deviled eggs … editioned? The book artists flow between the five cheese boards on the table and the sideboard full of additional cheese. An average of four bottles of wine per book artist keeps the conversation flowing, too. (The wine was chosen based on two criteria: price point, and whether the label was kerned.) One book artist starts it: Sometimes I feel a strange urge to eat my dried PVA. What if we ate our books? What books look good enough to eat? Three hours into the bookeating conversation, no one will shut it down: book artists enable each other’s strange urges to start international edible book festivals and edition the canapés.
Best of a google search for “eating books”:
A subject guide about “Edible Book Festivals at Academic Libraries” from the University of Illinois
Archived version of the original Books2eat website for the Edible Book Festival
Recipes on Eatingbooks.com, which are inspired by literature, TV, and film
North Bennet Street School bookbinding grads Erin Fletcher and Colin Urbina teach us how to make two types of edible book sandwiches
Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe (1980) (and cooks it, too!)
In 2016, a Washington Post columnist promised that if Donald Trump won the Republican presidential nomination, he’d eat one of his columns. His readers held him to it: acclaimed chef Victor Albisu of Washington’s Del Campo restaurant selected and prepared a wide variety of newsprint-based dishes. Then, the columnist ate them during a live stream on The Washington Post’s Facebook page.
Understandably, the WashPost’s foray into televised papereating raised concerns about the nutritional value of paper and books. STAT, a news site focused on health and medicine, interviewed a gastroenterologist about the risks of eating newsprint: “Paper is mostly composed of cellulose, a harmless organic compound found in plants. But humans lack the enzymes necessary to properly digest it.” That means a newspaper article is legible both before it is eaten and after it is shat. In between, it will temporarily lose its ability to be read, due to the GI tract.
Eating paper may be an easy way to increase insoluble fiber intake, which “can be therapeutically beneficial for people struggling with constipation.” In my research on eating books and paper, this has emerged as the only possible benefit: more book eating = less diarrhea.
ANNOUNCEMENTS & STUDIO NEWS
The next installment of PAPEREATERS is about book eating & performance art: why artists eat the books they do. Please reply: have you ever eaten books and/or paper? If you were going to eat a book, which book(s) and why? If you have never eaten a book, what would get you to eat a book?
On Aug. 13, I am moving all my books and paper to Minneapolis—along with two photocopiers, and three cats. (One of the cats eats paper. Just like his mom.)
Relocating is pretty disruptive for studio work; right now, I don’t really have talks or workshops on the calendar for the fall. I’ve been looking for part-time work in Minneapolis that’s a good fit for my skills and abilities (a recent cover letter included the line: “I excel at a variety of repetitive, book-related tasks.”)
Need a last-minute adjunct for art foundations, or entry-level college writing? Need someone to teach a semester-long course about “The Book as Sculpture”? Want to publish a book-length manuscript about handicrafts and space travel? Just want to be friends? We can make books with my photocopiers and my cats. Beware: the cats operate the photocopiers, not the other way around.
Thank you, reader, for reading
Unlike World UFO Day, Thanksgiving doesn’t exactly fall into the category of a “can’t-miss” holiday. If, like me, you’re a White person re-thinking what you do on Thanksgiving and have regular & sufficient income: paying a voluntary land tax or a setting up a regular donation to an org led by Indigenous organizers, like Honor the Earth or Great Plains Action Society may be a good starting place.