Sarah Jacobs

Writing a Life, Making a Book
Some Notes on A WA[Y]FARER


Never a first page always a birth, a last page always a death. We all understand that the story begins before and carries on after? Blank spaces and gaps and parts that are incomprehensible and simple things that disguise mysteries or pretend to. Riddling.

Lots of white space standing in for score upon score upon score of black letter. Pages destined to be skipped. Thousands of pages not enough. Name/born/died on a tombstone – call it a book cover – giving insufficient idea, except in the saddest of cases, of the lived space (turning through the pages).

The sequence once laid down is inalterable. If born, you die. Episodes in the middle have an accidental quality even though, once they have happened, they are – in a fluttery way – fixed. What must have come before and what must follow will expand or constrain; may recap or foretell. As blurry as it is opaque. Impossible to restore a sense of discoherence to a double page spread. Page over can there be a surprise?

I make a book of my mother to acknowledge her weight and the gravity with which I treat my memories. Reconciling at the same time that I get my own back. The book is short – terse – to acknowledge that the task is impossible. Easy to flick through the pages. I use spiral binding so the open book can lie flat. It is not too fanciful to say that the wire sutures the glaring pages; uglifies the flow.

I can neither read nor write mother. But I can imagine before history and early years and later fears – from what she told me and from what I observed and from what has been true for me. I cannot reconstruct or forgive her tedious creep into living death followed by dead death, so I think myself forward, thinking what I would wish if it were me. And at the moment I understand fully that the book is not an image or a page – that, held in the hand, it has a weight – I perceive that the weight is light. Have I made her life in the book or mine? May the answer bear fruit.

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Sarah Jacobs is a sculptor. She also makes and writes about books. A WA[Y]FARER was published by Colebrooke Publications in 1998. Her most recent publication is Atrocious Books, Colebrooke Publications, 2006.

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