From Firewheel: When Is a Book Not a Book?
The Dresser guesses that you, Dear Reader, might think the fussy reviewer is talking about an E-book. No, she ventures few have ever seen anything quite like Marjorie Tesser's
The Important Thing Is ... Card Game. What this text in a square flat box has going for it and, therefore, calls itself a book is that it won the 2009 Firewheel Chapbook Award.
Here's what the publisher says about what they want:
Preference is for innovative work (liberally interpreted), work that crosses genres, work that combines images and text, work in formats other than the traditionally bound book, or work that may have difficulty finding publication elsewhere due to the nature, typography, or format of the work.
When the Dresser first received the package containing Tesser's unusual chapbook, the overly busy Dresser had no clue what this box was supposed to be. So it sat on her desk patiently waiting to be explored. Several times the Dresser opened the box and thought, "Well, this looks like a kind of refrigerator magnets game, except there were no magnets and the directions invite the gamester to "Carefully gnaw on dotted lines Battle 'em! Trade 'em!" The Dresser began wondering who the audience should be? Beverly Hill Billies? Certainly not regular hill billies--they probably wouldn't open the box. How about precocious children who hate computers? Certainly, the audience has to be curious and not ordinary people.
The box contains 10 square sheets measuring 8 1/2 inches by almost 9 inches. Ok, so it's not square but nothing about this creation is regular. There are nine sheets that the players are invited to "gnaw" apart to make individual cards. (By the way, the Dresser thinks the author has not earned the right to use the word "gnaw." The text doesn't indicate such obsessive action.) Some of these cards have just one word while several are more text heavy. A majority of the cards are tiny (measuring 1 ¼ inches by ½ inch) but two cards are "Big" (measuring 1 ¾ inches by 1 ¼ inches) and "Bigger" (measuring 2 ¼ inches by 2 1/8 inches). Also one sheet contains blank cards, which invites the player to create text. The 10th card is a roster for listing "Your Team" and the "Other Team."
So how is this a book? Three of the card sheets have text that reads either down or across or even diagonally with phrases like:
You are still alive
You do your job
You did it with style
You haven't given up
The reading gives a cumulative effect, like viewing an Impressionist painting. One sheet is labeled "Bowery Poetry Club Edition." It has phrases like:
Fuzzers the cat
Swallow the sparrow whole, digest at will
Bush blew up the Towers
More acoustic poetic bands
One thing for sure, the game is not politically correct and not suitable for young or immature children. Occasionally there are clichés like "between rock and hard place," "half full or half empty," and "the universe is trying to tell you something." Within the context of querying what is important, the clichés work well enough. Personally, the Dresser would be happy to take this with her if she were going on retreat in a backwoods place where there was no electricity and not much to do in daylight. Personally, the Dresser thinks The Important Thing Is ... Card Game is more like an art installation than a book. However, it's all up to the person who interacts with this box of cards.
John Pauker was known for his short but puzzling poems. In "Gripping Poem," Pauker gives the reader two images to grapple with just as Marjorie Tessler expects her audience to struggle with what the important thing is.
The way a tree grips the air
And is still there
The way the air grips a tree
And is still free
by John Pauker
from In Solitary and Other Imaginations
Copyright © 1977 John Pauker