In an interview with the New York Times, J.J. Abrams – creator of Lost and director of Super 8, the recent Star Trek films and the forthcoming Star Wars sequels – has spoken of how S., his collaborative novel with Doug Dorst which is published today, ‘was born out of an idea of a love story and the notion of celebrating the book as an object.’ Abrams – whose work in film and television is commonly enshrined in levels of secrecy redolent of a pre-internet age – told the Times’ Logan Hill that ‘In a digital age, it’s a distinctly analog object. It felt romantic to me.’
S. – published by Little Brown imprint Mulholland Books in North America and Canongate in the UK – will initially be available only in hardback, with no release date set as yet for the digital edition. The book itself – written by Doug Dorst from an idea by Abrams – is presented as a variety of physical paraphernalia: centrally, a copy of the fictional 1949 novel Ship of Theseus styled to look like a worn library copy, covered with annotations throughout that, Pale Fire-like, tell the wider novel’s real story. The packaging also contains, per the New York Times, ‘handwritten letters and notes, a college newspaper clipping, a purple mimeographed telegram, photocopied book pages, postcards, an old photograph, a map scrawled on a coffee shop napkin, and even a throwback decoder ring.’
‘We took every advantage of publishing and the fact that it is an object,’ says Abrams. ‘The fun of S. is having the book itself. To physically hold it is kind of the point.’
Though relatively few people have seen the completed book prior to publication, it appears from the above description to occupy the hinterland between traditional hardback and art object, something reflected by its above-average (for hardback fiction at least) R.R.P. of £28 in the UK and $35 in North America.
The Times quotes Charles Miers of art book publishers Rizzoli NY on why Abrams and Dorst might have gone down this route with the book: ‘There’s a real interest in the book as an object of permanence, as a direct counterpoint to the digital world, that I haven’t seen before.’ We’ll have found out if the rest of the world shares that interest by the end of the week.
He was chief hack and music editor of webzine Brazen from 2006 to 2010, and hosted Left of the Dial on Subcity Radio from 2008 to 2011.
He can be heard semi-regularly on the podcast of Scottish cultural blog Scots Whay Hae ('20th best website in Scotland!' - The List), and in 2011 founded Seen Your Video, a film and music podcast and blog based in Glasgow. He has a Masters degree in Scottish Literature from the University of Glasgow that will never have any practical application. You are on a hiding to nothing if you follow him on Twitter expecting any kind of hot publishing scoop.