The physical canvass of a book is each and every page of said book.
The page is where the book and the reader physically meet, the location of their exchange, where the reader learns what the book is, from moment to moment, page to page.
As such, every single centimeter of the page, and the details therein, fall within a book’s tangible canvass, informing on a micro and macro level the reader’s perception and conception of the book.
But how about the macro through the micro? Case in point:
Have you ever noticed that a book’s title tends to appear at the top of every other page? This formatting design acts as a constant visual reminder prompting readers to consider different interpretations and applications of the title as they move through the book, in relation to whatever is happening in the book on that page.
It might seem like a simple title doesn’t require deep interpretation, because whatever aspects of the story the title references feels conclusively obvious. BUT, I promise you, with a little brainstorming, interpreting the relationship between the art and even a one-word title can reveal multiple possibilities as to what factors of the art the title could speak to.
Take Dog, from earlier this year. The movie is titled Dog, and the movie’s about Channing Tatum and a dog. Analytical case closed, yah?
Nah! What other components of the movie can be entered into a conversation with the word “dog”? What do we associate with the word, how does the movie uphold these assumptions, how does it refute/juxtapose others, and what do all of these relations say about the movie, what it depicts, and our understanding of the whole kit and caboodle?
I always try to keep a title in mind as I consume narrative art, because as much as post facto-interpretations of a title can bear (the most?) meaningful fruit, I’m equally interested in how the meaning of a title can change when refracted against and shot through the prism of various points of the story. A seemingly insignificant sequence can be out of mind by the time you’re through, but if you clock its potential relationship to the title in the moment, it can provoke a thought or revelation that otherwise would’ve fallen by the wayside.
Which is why I love that books insist on thrusting their titles in a reader’s face on every other page. When watching a movie or show, it’s easy to get so caught up in everything else that you lose track of evaluating how the title resonates with what’s in front of you (and vice versa), dropping the interpretative ball on the relationship between the title and any given, ultimately forgotten factors. And while readers undoubtedly don’t consciously gander at the title on every other page, at least it’s there as an option to spur their cognitive cockles.
And when it comes to a title as endlessly open to layered interpretation as the likes of Ruth Ozeki’s The Book of Form and Emptiness, its presence on every other page hopefully leads readers to theorize EVERY. SINGLE. CONNECTION. between the phrase and the book’s contents, because they are legion.
And because the book is about all of life’s obscured meaning that latently resides all around, staring us in the face to recognize if only we pay sufficient attention…well, in this respect, the title’s existence on every page, whose ever-shifting meaning awaits unpacking, feels thematically apt. It should inspire us to consider the unconsidered, the “hiding in plain sight” meaning to be discovered on every page of our own lives, as long as we remember to mull what we habitually overlook.