The Province of the Author as Recorder

By Simon Bell.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

When the UK Health Service rationalised its Warwickshire provision in 2006, two hospitals were decommissioned. This author was appointed, as Writer-in-Residence, to produce a book documenting the process. This is an ongoing project containing reports, articles, and interview transcripts, with new material being woven around existing material and spaces, and is entirely handwritten by the author. Many texts have unforced errors, and transcripts punctuation schemes reflecting pauses, hesitations, breaks and restarts. But readers can only guess timing (and other nuances of gestured meaning) from context. This is unreliable practice, because careful – yet insensitive – readers may feel that testimonies are undermined by these impositions of visual and syntactical order.

This paper champions the value of this book, despite the putative instability of some of its texts.

Its status as a work in progress, and its mixture of both random and controlled juxtapositions, should draw in and gratify active readers. There is also original prose and poetry in the book emerging as a result of the process, yet the subversion of the familiar forms of both the book and of documentation itself could mean that fiction is seen as more reliable than fact, prompting us to question our prejudices and expectations.

Keywords: Documentation/Accuracy, Familiarity/Tradition, Book Form, Stolid Fiction, Alluring Fact

International Journal of the Book, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp.53-60. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.255MB).

Simon Bell

Senior Lecturer, School of Art and Design, Coventry University, Coventry, West Midlands, UK

Simon Bell graduated in Typography and Graphic Communication from Reading University in 1974, having started off as a Literature student. He was in book publishing from 1974 until 1996, working for a range of publishers including Weidenfeld, the BBC, the National Gallery, the British Museum, the Royal Academy, Pan Books and Phaidon Press, amongst others. His work included editorial, text and caption writing, design, illustration, photography, and production. He has won four National Book League prizes. Since 1996 he has lectured at Coventry University’s School of Art and Design, specialising in book and publishing-related work, contextual studies, dissertations and all aspects of written work. He has sat on validation panels for other institutions, given conference papers focussing on fostering critical thinking in undergraduate art and design students, has won a Coventry University Teaching Excellence Award for Innovative Assessment, and recently completed a Masters in English Literature with Distinction. He has several ongoing writing projects, and has embarked upon a PhD exploring the value of writing for visual arts students.

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