INK., by Davis Schneiderman. Jaded Ibis Press, December 2015. 200 pages. $18.00, paper.
Is this a riff on a Pollock drip painting? Is this a Rorschach test in ink splatters, rather than blots? A satire? A graphic novel? None? All? This concept novel aggressively resists review and conventional classification.
What it is—or is not—INK. won’t say. Or, maybe it will, but certainly not on typical narrative terms. Disrupting the typical reading experience in more ways than one, this book begins and ends with solitary pages of total black ink. In between, there are ink saturated pages, splattered sheets smeared in severe grey and black, lightening the black tone only enough to get the visual contrast required for the splatters to appear on the black backdrop.
The most striking dimension of this book? First, there is no text—aside from the customary introductory and concluding pages, like “About the Author,” “About the Illustrator,” and “About Jaded Ibis Press,” which are actually quite helpful in understanding the project. Second, aside from narrative neutral black or very dark grey ink-smear and splatter, there are several photographs scattered throughout. I count six of them. Some are contained within a single page, some eclipse two pages, but all appear to be silhouettes of a gender-neutral human figure, washed in grey or black ink tone. The photographs appear to show a man in the following actions: stretching arms outward, jumping a fence, sitting with an opened laptop, and stretching arms upward. It appears that the laptop photograph is used thrice: as a close-up, as the original, and then sullied by an ink splatter.
Is it possible to conjecture a narrative from this pastiche of photographs and ink-drabble? Sure it is. One potential thesis: human flight from technology to the natural world. Or, the queasy oscillation between the digital and the natural. As readers decipher from the “About the Artist” section, we learn that the figure in the photograph is in fact Schneiderman himself. What does this mean? Meaning making is left to the reader-viewer. And this interpretational difficulty seems intentional. With so much shadow and darkness, it’s hard to tell what’s going on.
This book splatters itself beyond its pages, too. Schneiderman informs the purchaser that “Any person who buys a fine-art edition of INK. may choose a book from Schneiderman’s library, which Schneiderman must then destroy.” There is no stated purpose or intention undergirding this promissory note. But, this certainly counts as a unique extratextual cultural experiment. With respect to the book chosen from his library, the promise goes so far as to guarantee that “[Schneiderman] will send evidence of the remains to the purchaser.” Provoking reader frustration and curiosity, this experimental work boldly reclaims the book as the literary form which houses the strange and unsettling.
INK. is the final book in the Davis Schneiderman’s DEAD/BOOKS trilogy, following Blank (2011) and [Sic] (2013).
R. Loveeachother isn’t much for introductions. Too much uncertainty and psychology at play. He is an MFA candidate at Georgia College & State University, with work recently published or forthcoming in Potluck, Flash Fiction Magazine, and Canyon Voices.