Present Yourself

I feel like giving you a present. Well, not all of you. I mean, yes, I do feel like giving you all presents, but I only have enough presents for one of you. Does that sound mean? Let me explain further.

This must be a thing left over from when I used to read a lot of craft blogs (I like to sew). Crafters are always making things and they always have spare bits and bobs and squares of fabric and darling little things they have whipped up in the middle of sleepless nights, and they are always giving them away to each other. They say on their blogs, “I happen to have this pile of darling fabric scraps and a pencil cozy I knitted last night, and I am going to give it all away to a random person who comments on this post.” It created a lot of camaraderie, plus, I imagine, it kept people coming back to read the blog in the hopes that next time they would be the one to win the pencil cozy.

Don’t worry, I don’t have any pencil cozies. What I do have is yet another book I picked up during my epic used-bookstore visit a couple of weeks ago. The thing is that I already own this book, a fact of which I was completely aware when I purchased it. This is a weird habit of mine. When I find nice used copies of books I really love, even if I already own a perfectly nice copy, even if they’re not rare, I often feel compelled to buy them anyway. Then I bring them home and stare at my bookshelves, which occupy pretty much all the spare floor space in my house and are so full I have begun stacking books horizontally on top of the vertical ones, and despair yet again of my sanity.

In this case, however, I conceived of a win-win solution to this problem: I would give away this book, which it just so happens I have written about at length on this very blog, to one of my readers. Not just because I need to get rid of a book. Not just because I like you. Not just because it’s the time of year when people traditionally give gifts to people they like.

But also because I like wrapping up books and tucking them in those cute little padded envelopes and trotting them down to the pharmacy-cum-post office on the corner and saying, “I would like to mail this, please,” which I always say even though what else would I be doing handing the people at the post office an addressed envelope? Don’t ask me why I like doing this, I just do. So you’re doing me a favor, really.

This copy of Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata (in case you were too lazy to click through to the link above) is a nice little rack-sized paperback that looks as if it’s never been read. It was printed in Japan as part of the “Unesco Series of Contemporary Works,” but it’s entirely in English and includes the enlightening introduction by the translator, Edward G. Seidensticker.

So here’s the rundown: Comment on my blog. I know, you were going to do that anyway, weren’t you? Weren’t you? I will make a list of everyone who comments between now and December 31st (your name only gets to go on the list once, sorry, even if you comment every day, which I would be thrilled if you did).

Then I’ll put all the names in a hat, or something, and pull one out, and mail that person the book sometime after the New Year. It’s pretty simple, really.

(I may also include a special haiku I write just for you. You never know. Haiku don’t take up very much space in envelopes.)

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18 thoughts on “Present Yourself

  1. Well, you know you don’t have to give any other gift than the one you already give daily–your blog, which is one of the most generous gifts of time, talent and effort you could ever give. Corny, I know. Just feeling the spirit . . .

  2. I wandered here from Haiku Bandit Society, to find this generous offer.

    Thanks for thinking of this.

    Makes me want to get some padded envelopes of my own, and do something similar with some, not all, of my multiple copies of favorite books.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Jean! Yeah … I may do this some more myself, now that I’ve thought of it …
      I stopped by your blog too and wow! I will have to visit again … I love your paintings. That’s something I can’t do at all myself and I’m always in awe of people who can … it seems like magic to me.

  3. bwahahahahaa. yeah, i would comment on this post even if you werent doing what you plan to do. the reason i’d comment… is because you have just written about one of the very tangible reasons that mail art artists so much enjoy and have fun with Mail Art! you have the spirit of a Mail Artist. and you’d have to do very little different than exactly what you’ve written about here to be calling yourself a Mail Art Artist. yeah. true. in 3 ways true –

    one: what you say about the sewing and the gifting out of these (and many other) midnight sewing gems. yeah, definitely mail art material in that.

    two: the packaging and tucking in of the book into that padded envelope – yeah, fun. yeah. really. mail art people get off on this. they get so off on it, they start playing on the envelope sometimes.

    three: exactly the thrill and fun you have at the post office. yeah again, and we tell post office stories and mail person stories quite frequently. it’s continually popping up, that storying. because it’s part of mail art. after all that’s where a lot of mail art work gets what i call “Post Office Patina”. all the travel bits and scrapes and additions – and subtractions – and alterings of travel through the post office. beautiful and always a part of a work. yeah, and fun too.

    four: including extras – yeah mail art artists often include what they call “little extras”. they add it in for various reasonings and fun. like the “extra” of the haiku you mention. …altho of course your entire Mail Art work could simply be haiku too. or haiku/haiga. …and sewing! wow, one of the really exciting ways to work on something of mail art intent – think of it… a postcard haiga with sewing. …oops. that might be the mail art and not necessarily an extra… unless it was included say within the book package… sheesh. yeah mail art can go every which way. mainly of course it goes via the post office, or was intended to, or it “could” go through the post office…

    five: yeah, i know i thought it was 3, it was at least 3 but it turns our there are at least 5. the entire conceiving of this project smacks richly of Mail Artness.

    six: yeah there may be more. i’m not going to say how many there might be now. but i think you’re having the kind of fun that a Mail Art being has with this entire process. you’re in the Mail Art spirit. yeah, mail art is for all human beings, whether they think they are a mail art artist or any kind of artist or not.

    …you once told me something about art not being something you… never mind i’d be miss-remembering what you said anyway. you clearly feel the aesthetic of at least mail art. and i suspect of an artist too – even if you dont know it.

    so, yeah, imo – you have the spirit of a Mail Artist – mail art is for people. something i’m working out about my own art – my art is for human beings. that’s what i’m saying now.

    seven: that you like going through that book shop in the way you did – even down to the kind of purchase you made with this book. btw, i buy books occasionally that i already have. usually i forget i already have them. sometimes i buy them again because i want to give them away. one i will always buy when ever i see it. it’s one on meditation but that’s another story. haiku as story. ha. interesting ramble today? no. just me rambling.

    cool on this project. oh. btw. i hope i can make this suggestion without it offending. imo, it would be cool (if you do write a ku for the recipient of this Mail Art work – oops, i mean this… this… haiku think of yours that’s going through or intended to go through, the mail…) to do the haiku IN the book… which would make it even more Mail Art-like – altho i can see where… …okay i know technically it may not be, or you may not think of it as a mail art project, but hey, the spirit of the project tastes of Mail art. if it tastes of mail art, if it looks like mail art (and it does) and goes through the mail (or isn intended to be able to go through the mail)… then… it must be…. Mail Art, yes. …oh. the haiku, adding it in the book some place – that would be altering the book.. most definitely a mail art way of working. …bwahahahaha – then you’d find it very difficult to escape having become or at least owning up to the title of – a Mail Art Artist – because you would have created your version of an altered book. fun. aloha. yeah. toss me into that hat if that’s okay. fun. fun play. …which of course is again – another – mail art artist way.

    • Wow, Wrick. So much here my head is reeling…

      Yes, actually things like mail art and altered books have always fascinated me for many of the reasons you talk about here … for one thing it is kind of like an art/literature mashup, for another there is the aspect of engaging with other human beings while doing art (which is why I really like renku) and even sort of making other human beings part of the art, making social relations the subject of the art. Also letting go of some of your control over the art, which combats perfectionism. Also, of course, there is just the general coolness of mail in general and the United States Post Office in particular which I consider to be one of the great human institutions of all time. 🙂 We should all be doing our part to keep it in business …

      I think I would probably ask the lucky winner whether they wanted the haiku in the book or not, some people would consider that a plus and some a minus (although it’s not as if this book is at all valuable so it wouldn’t be an issue of damaging its value by writing in it). I also have some other ideas about what to do with the haiku to make its presentation more interesting. 🙂 And yes, the craft bloggers are famous for adding in extra things to their giveaways and making the presentation of them really cool, which is a huge part of the appeal for both giver and receiver.

      Takeaway message: I must send more mail! 🙂 Thanks for reminding me.

      • bwahahahaha – yeah. i knew i was getting carried away. on the other hand you know i’m like that – especially if i’m having fun. yeah, you definitely have the spirit of an artist and particularly a mail art artist. i agree with what you are saying about how and why the interactions of art/literature/collaborations and human beings are appealing. it’s way fun to do collaborative digital works. of course there are multiple ways to do it as well. i like the way you think – recipient preference, and alternate presentation possibilities – bwhahahaha that has to be coming from the artist in you. send more mail. just a reminder. i know mail art communities would have fun with you in the mix. …like we have unlimited time. i know, i know. so no worries about doing it, i’m just saying… have fun in what ever you’re doing. which is what it looks like to me is exactly what you are doing. now… we havnt talked about glamour bombs yet have we? i have to think those going off in a library would be awesome fun.

        • Yikes…are you trying to get me obsessed with yet another time-consuming yet completely non-lucrative activity? Curse you, Daddario. 🙂

          And what pray tell are glamor bombs? Wait…do I want to know? 🙂

          • bwahahahahaha – curses foiled again. wait. that’s Snoppy and the Red Baron. well. Red Dragonflies are similar arnt they? they both have double decker wings. . . bwahahaha

            the profit in glamourbombs may be fun. or… something even more… astonishing. do you really want to know? hmmm…

            okay:
            there are many different versions of exactly what a glamourbomb is how to make them and how to… set them off. from deep and esoteric to light and fun… even dark and slightly dark to ethereal and magical.

            i have my own version of what a glamourbomb is. if you look into glamourbombs, you’ll probably develop your own sense of what it is… there are sources around the web that will clue you in altho it may not be easy to get a firm grasp on it quickly…

            one problem i have with the Wikipedia info is that it sets the tone right off as a “prank”. that bothers me slightly altho there is a lot of good info in the article so…

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glamourbomb

            basically the article is good but it’s not quite complete as i see it. do check the examples and example list out.

            one of my first intentional attempts that i created is this one:

            http://rickdaddario.com/image-viewer.htm?Fgallery12-3

            the info on the card itself and below in the blurb about it may help to understand how it should work. this was to be a perpetual glamourbomb in that when found it was to be re-hidden – in the library following the instructions as you’ll see.

            the following version has some tooth to it and as i see it is quite knowledgeable on the subject:

            http://www.eristic.net/fey/gbomb/index.php

            mainly as i see it, a glamourbomb is something intended to surprise, may be astonish, possibly delight, create a new belief or at least suspend an old belief in a world that may go beyond our own that at least has the possibility of magic in it and definitely to alter the perception or view point of the world as viewed by the person who encounters the glamourbomb.

            ….and of course note the connection… at least loosely with poetic concepts…

            from the above i’m sure you’ll be able to explore off on this topic as much as you’d like to explore. i did some leaf drawings a while back that when posted i found people connecting them up to glamourbombing in the comments – and i can see how that activity of leaf drawing could be shaped into glamourbombing projects. if you want to look, it’s here:

            http://more19planets.blogspot.com/2007/05/5-leaf-drawings-drawing-on-leaves.html

            even before that, i also at one time created spheres out of clay – hollow spheres – tennis ball to softball size roughly with outside designs and markings and so on. i’d place something inside the sphere that could be heard when it was moved but could not be seen or gotten out without breaking the clay sphere. knowing that one day all clay things will break, even tho they are also extremely durable and can last thousands of years, i decided i wanted a surprise for those who were around when that happened – thus the inner object. after firing it, i’d leave the spheres in different places – around a city or several (from Seattle to the twin Cities to the east coast), in parks, in yards, at highway rest stops, sometimes in plain sight, sometimes slightly to greatly hidden, even burying some at times. altho this was long before i knew about glamourbombs people have told me this fits into the concept of glamourbombs and glamourbombing quite well.

  4. alee9 says:

    Thanks for this engaging post, Melissa!

    “Snow Country” introduced me to and hooked me on Kawabata in the 80s. My copy had since frayed in the corners. So would I toss it for a newer one with your haiku on the title page perhaps as Rick suggests above? I wish I could but I believe I would keep both. Like you, I do keep copies of the same books but especially the first one–as in not wanting to let go of first loves. May I ask you then to throw in my name in that hat or something?

    • So glad to find someone else who has read this! It is so amazing, isn’t it? Of course I will throw your name in the hat and I hope you do keep both books if you win. 🙂 Yes — not wanting to let go of first loves is a good analogy. 🙂

  5. Sully says:

    present yourself
    wise men gawk
    gifts galore

    Mellissa, I am in. Love your web site and the present yourself for a present. Good fun to end the year. I am still learning and that is a good sign, a gift to myself.

    Sully

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