The Book That Can’t Wait

by Jas Faulkner 

Anyone with a tall “to be read” stack will get chills at the thought of  “El Libro que No Puede Esperar”  (translation: “The Book That Can’t Wait”).  Eterna Cadencia, a publisher and bookseller in Argentina, has reportedly published a collection of stories by up and coming Latin American writers featuring a gimmick that garnered the imprint a lot of attention outside of its usual market. In the interest of creating a sense of urgency that these authors should be read, and read soon, a promotional video reports they have printed the books using an ink that begins to degrade as soon as the book is exposed to air and  light.  Break the seal and you have two months to read the book. The fading process starts immediately.

The promotional video about the book that has gone viral (en Inglés, gracias a Dios!). Mainstream outlets such as Wired and Huffington Post have already reported the story as gospel.

The statement on the video from Eterna Cadencia offers the rationale that an author whose work is allowed to sit unread will fall between the cracks where the publishing industry is concerned. By creating a book with ink that completely disappears within two months, it is hoped that those who buy it will feel compelled to read what they have to say right away instead of years from now when the author has been forgotten by the industry and may have moved away from writing altogether.

I contacted a friend in San Diego whom I felt sure would be intrigued enough to get a copy of the book.  While he has seen the coverage  of  “El Libro que No Puede Esperar” on various new media outlets, he is pretty sure the whole thing is an elaborate joke.

“Go to the publisher’s website,” he said, “I know your vocabulary is limited to kitchen Spanglish and Shakira lyrics, but go see what the publisher has to say about the book on their own website.”

If you haven’t visited Eterna Cadencia’s homepage yet, I will warn you that it is a book lover’s delight.  The home page has shelf porn that sidetracked me for at least a few minutes (“Ooh! Pretty!”)  They also have a wonderful blog and their selection is intriguing.  I wish my Spanish was better.  I browsed their rather lovely site and found…nothing about “El Libro que No Puede Esperar“.  A search of the site’s blog was just as productive.

Andrew laughed when I called him back.

“Told you,” he said.  “As a marketing ploy and as a piece of performance art with a message, I like it, but no, it’s not real in the sense that you’d be able to buy a copy at Amazon.  Yes, I checked there back in June when I first heard about it.”

Aside from the message it sends about the fragility of creative life in a culture that doesn’t value art as a vocation, there is the ephemeral quality of language.  We like to think it’s eternal and immutable and it’s changing all the time.  The same goes for any art form.  The immediacy with which it speaks to us only lasts for so long and then we filter everything  through our own canonical points of reference based on who and when we are.

Anyone who puts paint on a canvas or words on a screen knows the odd feeling that we may not find an audience who eagerly seeks out what we do until we are gone.  Culture observers may look on with bemusement and collectors in this country who have declared the desire for multiple copies may at some point get their wish.   Personally, I can think of too many instances where I was saddened and frustrated by annotations of ancient texts noting gaps where the physical media was missing or untranslatable.

Literatura con una fecha de caducidad? No, gracias!

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