Pet Book #3: Image

Tucked into the second volume of the edition of Astoria in Snell’s special collection is a map detailing the regions around the eponymous Astoria. I’m interested in the role that this map plays in the construction of a visual narrative; why, for example, is the map included in the second volume but not the first? There may well be a literary answer to this: including the map later in the collection allows the reader to familiarize themselves with the terrain while reading, referring to the map after the fact for clarification. This is a tenuous claim at best; one can imagine including the map in the end-matter of the first volume, for example. The map itself is also its own opening; one must physically unfold, an act which requires first opening the book to its first possibly opening. The folded map tenders, then, a material critique of the linearity of the book-form by a) interrupting the continuity between the first and second volumes in form and b) physically differentiating itself from the typical experience of reading.

The map itself also offers an interesting illustration of Fleming’s comments on printers flowers as an “aesthetic space that encourages projective – that is, subjective and imaginative – behaviour, and that in doing so it breaks the stranglehold, that the semantic function otherwise exerts over writing.” The map does offer metatextual or con-textual materials (it supplements the reading by given the reader some spatial context for the narrative), true, but taken on its own and independent of the rest of the book, the form of the map is interesting in that it couples textual meaning-making (place names, keys, etc.) with aesthetic semantics. We even see, in many maps, devices not unlike printer’s flowers, whether they’re the stylized compass-rose or the beautified boxes around the map key. In the case of this particular map, there are less ornaments, but the case remains that the map as a particular form of image often illuminates the problems with making a concrete semantic-visual distinction.

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