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It Was the Best of Titles, It Was the Worst of Titles

November 4, 2013 | by

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In March, Michele Filgate wrote about Meriç Algün Ringborg’s Manhattan exhibition “The Library of Unborrowed Books” for this Web site. For that exhibition Algün Ringborg selected and exhibited titles that had never been borrowed from their respective libraries—an idea both clever and touching. Last month she opened her new, similarly bookish exhibition in Istanbul’s stylish Gallery NON, which is currently hosting its first show in a new building on a bystreet cutting through Istiklal, the city’s cultural center.

“The Apparent Author” consists of a sound installation which amplifies the voice of an author going on and on about her artistic goals, ambitions, and potentials (it feels as if she prefers speaking over the more difficult task of writing a book). Moving along, the viewer is confronted by two silent videos of the hands of the same author (in one video she ties a knot, in the other she performs a trick with a pen—both movements seem equally devoid of purpose). Then we come to what is, implicitly, the author’s workplace; we see the manuscript of a romance-thriller novel composed entirely from example sentences found in the Oxford English Dictionary, whose random and yet strictly disciplined order serves as the point of departure for the exhibition.

As an Istanbul author trying to finish a first novel in English, I was particularly fascinated by one piece: a shelf holding more than one hundred books devoted to helping authors finish their manuscripts. In fact, I immediately took out my iPhone and made a recording of the manual titles so that I could read them in more detail back home. (With the exception of Milan Kundera’s The Art of the Novel, I hadn’t read any of the books on Algün Ringborg’s shelf.) My fast-panning video is fifty-three seconds long; typing the titles of all the books in it took almost an hour. Below I present the fruits of my labors: a full list of the library’s titles, which Algün Ringborg says are all taken from actual books. I checked them on Amazon; she is right. However absurd their titles may seem, almost all those books are sold under the site’s Education & Reference department.

My feelings shifted from laughter to sadness when I tried imagining not only the readers of those books, but also the authors, themselves in desperate need of attention from the people they are meant to educate. Had the Stanford professor Franco Moretti analyzed the titles of their books with his distant reading methods, he would surely point to the curious ways in which they present the craft of writing: they offer exercises and strategies to create time for writing, they believe that a book is something that the writer grows, like a child, and that the literary voice is something one can find in a manual. Plots can be devised through kits and those same kits can help one write a first draft in thirty days; one can liberate her writing, or release or free her inner writer, just like that.

100 Ways to Improve Your Writing

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Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish

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The Write-Brain Workbook: 366 Exercises to Liberate Your Writing

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The Writer’s Devotional: 365 Inspirational Exercises, Ideas, Tips & Motivations on Writing

The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers

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Writing from the Body: For Writers, Artists and Dreamers Who Long to Free Their Voice

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Writing Your Way

You Were Born to Write: Complete Your Book in 30 Days or Less by Mastering the Inner Game of Writing

Zen in the Art of Writing 

 

The Apparent Author” is open until November 9 at Gallery NON, Tomtom Mahallesi, Nur-i Ziya Street, no 16, Istanbul, Turkey.

Kaya Genç is a novelist and essayist from Istanbul.

 

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