When Amaranth Borsuk, the next presenter in the University of Houston-Victoria/American Book Review Reading Series, was in graduate school, she found herself in a strange dichotomy between working at the letterpress studio at a Los Angeles art college while also doing research on electronic literature.
“I found myself going back and forth between this open, freeform digital content and the slow, methodical, precise method of creating printed materials,” said Borsuk, a scholar, poet and book artist. “It helped me develop an appreciation for not only how we think of print books but also for how books as a medium are constantly changing.”
Borsuk is an associate professor in the University of Washington Bothell’s School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. She will give a presentation about her work and her most recent volume, “The Book,” which explores what makes up a book, at 11 a.m. Thursday in the Alcorn Auditorium inside UHV University West, 3007 N. Ben Wilson St. The event is free and open to the public.
“Amaranth Borsuk brings a fresh, innovative perspective to the traditional viewpoint about books as a medium,” said Jeffrey Di Leo, ABR editor and publisher and dean of the UHV School of Arts and Sciences. “The community is in for a real treat as she explores the way society defines books and how that perspective is shifting in the wake of new technology.”
One of Borsuk’s first books was an experimental collection of poems, “Between Page and Screen,” created in collaboration with programmer Brad Bouse. The poems, a series of love letters between two characters, P and S, do not appear on the pages of the book. Rather, to make the text appear, readers must visit a website and display the open book to their webcam, which prompts the text to leap off the page in a kind of digital pop-up book. The work was a metaphor for Borsuk’s desire to explore both print and digital media.
“I became interested in the constant controversy and debate surrounding technology and how some people say the book as a medium is dead,” she said. “It’s made me wonder why this troubles people so much. The book has been a changing and developing medium throughout history.”
One of the elements that Borsuk wants to highlight in her work and during her presentation in Victoria is that the book always has been an interactive medium. Whether it is a tablet with a carved inscription or a website designed to change words based on where a user’s mouse is on the screen, the primary intention is always to share a message with the reader, she said.
“The truth is that we don’t really need to pit print against digital,” Borsuk said. “This is all just part of the continuum of the written word.”
The final writer scheduled for the fall UHV/ABR Reading Series is Nick Montfort, who will come Dec. 5 to UHV. Montfort’s computer-generated books of poetry include “#!” (pronounced “shebang”), the collaboration “2×6,” “Autopia,” “The Truelist” (in Counterpath’s “Using Electricity” series) and “Hard West Turn.” He has six books out from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, most recently “The Future.” He performs and shows digital artwork internationally, and his projects include “Taroko Gorge” and the collaborations “The Deletionist” and “Sea and Spar Between.” Montfort runs the micropress Bad Quarto. Further underground, he is lead organizer for the demoparty Synchrony and MCs as Doc Mofo. He is a professor of digital media at MIT, where he directs The Trope Tank, and he lives in New York.
ABR is a nonprofit, internationally distributed literary journal published six times a year. It began in 1977, moved to UHV in 2006 and has a circulation of about 10,000. The journal specializes in reviews of works published by small presses.
Authors are available after each reading to sign copies of their books. Each author also meets with students and attends a community reception.
For more information about the UHV/ABR Reading Series, call the ABR office at 361-570-4101 or go to americanbookreview.org.