How I Read S.
They say there's no wrong way to read this book. Sure...but here's a really good approach 😏 Contains no spoilers provided you don't stare too hard at the pictures of my book log.
- •S. is not just a book. It's a revolutionary reading experience.
- •Why? Because there's multi-level expository. Firstly, there's a novel proper called Ship of Theseus by a (fictional) authour VM Straka, "published" in 1949Part of the lore is that Straka was reclusive and no one knew who he really was, including his translator.
- •And then there's a story within margin notes, as two modern-day characters named Jen and Eric pass the book back and forth to each other.The premise is that Jen finds Eric's copy of Ship of Theseus in the stacks of their university library, and marks it up. He responds to her notes. They go back and forth like this many times over, even changing ink colors as time passes.
- •Finally, there's all these things stuck into the book to pore over: letters, postcards, newspaper clippingsThese are extra things Eric and Jen pass to each other, kept within the book. And where they were inserted is not arbitrary.
- •So it's a little daunting to figure out how to start. And whether you're reading it right. Or...optimally.
- •I'd like to present how I read it, because I think my experience turned out well. It's a systematic approach.But keep in mind, even if you use this approach, it's still confusing. It's meant to be a very involving thought process. It's not until you've gotten thru it all that it comes together.
- •MY APPROACH:
- •1. I read the Foreward chapter of the novel, with its footnotes and margin notes at the same timeThis gave me a sense of what was what so I could plot out a plan of attack. It provides enough background about the novel, the who-is-Straka mystery, who Eric and Jen are, and how all these things are going to intertwine.
- •2. I removed all of the inserted material and cataloged them so the book became more accessible (i.e. without the pages folding against things wonkily, without things sticking out at me or falling out)I documented what page of the novel each item was inserted in, and attached paired number stickies to the item and the page.
- •Numbered sticky tabs where the inserts were.
- •3. I read the novel all the way thru, ignoring the footnotes and margin notesMeaning, as much as I could ignore. It does take a lot of self-restraint for your eyes to not wander to the margin notes from time to time.
- •As I read the novel, I outlined the events so I could refer back to it as I read the margin notes. Because my memory is bad. And because I am this sort of person 😑Later, as I read the margin notes, I filled in what happens with Eric and Jen.
- •4. I read the margin notes. But! Not all at once! Because Jen and Eric make four separate passes of notes, demarcated by different colored ink pairings.So it boils down to: 1) First pass = blue/black ink 2) Second pass = orange/green 3) Third pass = purple/red 4) Fourth pass = black/black. I doubled back to read the margin notes four times.
- •Here's the rub: it's not a perfect system. Because the margin notes themselves are not quite in chronological orderIt makes sense- if you passed a book to someone back and forth, you would not necessarily write margin notes to each other page by page. You'd jump here and there, but you'd know which notes were new to you and respond to them. This is very irksome to the reader. And it's one of the reasons why the book does not make complete sense until everything is read.
- •5. I read the loose clipppings/letters/cards as I came across the pages they were inserted into with the "first pass" (blue/black ink) of margin notes.This did not always correspond to chronological order. But you get a sense for where they fall and go back to them when they become pertinent.
- •6. In the end, to get a broad sense of the chronological order of things, I wrote out a timeline of events by ink colorHaha! I'm kind of crazy like this! Ask me about my Girl on the Train timelines, or my HP and the Cursed Child parallel timeline outlines one day! 🤓