Thoughts on the Process of Erasing and Refacing Old Books


One of the best things about working on erasure books—by which I mean books that are altered so as to create new texts for which new images are supplied by the erasure writer/artist--is that it is a relatively recent genre and so, blessedly, rules as to how to proceed have not had time to emerge.Nor are they needed.Once you immerse in the process, your own aesthetic and outlook becomes clear to you, draws you in.

At the same time, people who have never done an erasure book and would like to give it a try might benefit from a few words of encouragement and guidanceso they don’t become utterly lost and confused.Erasing books is great fun, but it is also harder than it looks, because to do it well requires a creative focus on the possibilities of each page of text or image—and the possibilities are as close to boundless as anyone could ask for.

So here are some suggestions:

Don’t be afraid to mess a book up and fail outright.The only way to learn is to do.Looking back on them, my first few erasure books are patchy and a bit timid.I was finding my way.It was worth the time to find out what I didn’t want to do and what excited me to explore.

I suggest using vintage books to avoid copyright issues and to encounter linguistic styles from earlier eras that invites creative engagement for a writer with an ear for the contrast between those styles & modern ways of speaking.

Choose books with strong sewn bindings, if possible.If you choose to add images, you’ll be adding to the thickness of the books, which places strain on weak bindings to the point that your erasure book may simply come apart, which is sad moment.

More erasure suggestions to come in future posts.For now, here’s a page-spread from a recent erasure book of mine so you can get a sense of what a mess you can make.