- Paperback: 88 pages
- Publisher: lulu.com (July 26, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1411662083
- ISBN-13: 978-1411662087
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.2 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,530,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Giant'S Fence Paperback – July 26, 2011
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The Giant's Fence (by Michael Jacobson) is a unique book. Instead of being filled with words, it gives you 80 pages of trans-symbolic script. Each page has several lines of linked, dancing symbols. They live, move, mutate, and die. The whole book could be interpreted both as the song of how we humans invented symbolic communication, and the telling of its slow disintegration. There are at least 2 ways to "read" The Giant's Fence. You can begin at page 1, scan the first line, scan the second line, and so on, as you would read a regular book. You can also flip to a random page, and jump to a line which catches your eye. Some pages distort the rows of horizontal lines of symbols into curves, so you can't exercise your usual reading habits. The Giant's Fence stimulates new ways of reading and new ways of thinking. As the introduction says, "any meaning" the reader constructs "is a correct translation." The book's title is a translation of Finnish "Jatulintarha", a name given to many of the stone labyrinths found in Finland. The only precursors to The Giant's Fence are the hypergraphic novels of the Lettristes (such as Alain Satie's Ecrit en Prose) and some of the more complex works of asemic poetry. If you want to step outside of language, and bathe in unmuddied waters, this book is for you.
-- Tim Gaze, publisher of Asemic Magazine
About the Author
Michael Jacobson is a writer, artist, and independent curator from Minneapolis, Minnesota USA. His books include The Giant's Fence (Ubu Editions), Action Figures (Avance Publishing), Mynd Eraser, The Paranoia Machine, and his latest collected writings Works & Interviews (Post-Asemic Press); he is also co-editor of An Anthology Of Asemic Handwriting (Uitgeverij). Besides writing books, he curates a gallery for asemic writing called The New Post-Literate, and sits on the editorial board of SCRIPTjr.nl. Recently, he was published in The Last Vispo Anthology (Fantagraphics), and curated the Minnesota Center for Book Arts exhibit: Asemic Writing: Offline & In The Gallery. In 2013 he was interviewed by SampleKanon and Asymptote Journal, in 2015 by Twenty Four Hours, and in 2016 by David Alan Binder. Currently, he created cover art for Rain Taxi's 2014 winter issue, and as of 2017 he has become a publisher at Post-Asemic Press. In his spare time, he is working on designing a cyberspace planet dubbed THAT. His Ello studio can be found here: @asemicwriter.
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In asemic writing there is no externally imposed context, so the images must develop personal voices. As for Michael Jacobson's work, "The Giant's Fence": as soon as we open the pages this voice leaps to life. Although there are no letters in this book, the images we see are assumed to be letters, by form alone. Although there are no words, the collections of images here -- joined by connective line or associated by narrow space -- are assumed to be words, and in no small degree by the fact that they are arranged into very neat lines of remarkably consistent form and order.
This order is important to the life in these symbols, the life that makes up "The Giant's Fence" -- for Jacobson's book is rich with life, with the ambition of images, the struggle to do what all images want to do for the viewer: to be symbols, to represent things other than themselves, and so elevate their own significance. Just as we do: images grow and develop their meaning through the assistance -- and insistence -- of others.
Then: just as there is order, there's also contest and disobedience. In addition to letters and words, we have punctuation; but instead of governing the words and guiding them into 'understanding' by the reader, this Jacobsonian punctuation is independent, aggressive. It adopts new shapes and attitudes against the imposed flow, it swells and pushes against the lines of words. So, in contrast with literature, the punctuation becomes the most interesting player in "The Giant's Fence", and it's almost as if, in all this insubordination, a narrative is born. Yet the text remains elusive. It does not oblige us with the information needed to crystallize the narrative we seek.
Once, looking through this book, I imagined myself exploring a strange city and trying to understand what I saw. The spaces between the lines were streets. I couldn't go inside any of the shops or public buildings because I didn't speak the language and I didn't want to embarrass myself, so I remained outside -- almost hiding, in a way -- trying desperately to understand, from afar.
This fantasy failed me, because the structure for it can't be found on a page. No literature and no imagery can do this for me, yet I want it, I want to find new meaning in form, to travel form as I travel a city's streets. To me, "The Giant's Fence" is like an exercise in both the desire and the attempt to understand writing in terms of its form rather than its prescribed meaning. If we set goals for ourselves such as finding a narrative: we will fail. The fun of "The Giant's Fence" is in the explorations -- our failures and all -- wherever they might lead us.
As a writer, I am constantly frustrated by the use of the same medium. Attempting to capture a picture with words can be both riveting and excruciating. In trying to convey not just the nuance of a moment, but all the internal and external sensory details attendant to it, words must prove inadequate. Even the most talented wordsmith can only ever approximate the expression of true experience. No matter how well-crafted and situated, words ultimately become a barrier to communication even as they strive to achieve it.
The conveyence by a writer of her experience of the world will finally be the reader's own analogous experience, interpreted through his own convulated stew of emotions/thoughts/memory. Pure communication has failed.
How does ascemic writing fit into this conondrum?
Mr. Jacobson has taken a full-throttle leap right into the heart of this question with his little gem of a book, The Giant's Fence.
A fascinating text, without a single word, it pulls the reader in in an almost hypnotic fashion. It demands a certain reverence, not unlike gazing at the pictograms of the ancients or the cave drawings of early man. One gets a sense of awakening to unadorned humanity. It is a gestalt revelation of the writer.
Communication in a different way, The Giant's Fence compells the reader to understand with the higher self. Without words, the gray matter must step aside and let the spirit have at it. A heartbeat threads through the text - a shamanic drum calling you further and further in. It feels at once ancient and ultramodern - substantial yet dreamlike. An understanding without defining.
In a word - It's cool.