S. is an unusual book. Being the die-hard LOST fan that I am, I knew that if J.J. Abrams has co-authored a book (with Doug Dorst) I will for sure love it. It was a given. Sometimes may be you go with the instinct, only to realize that you were right all along. There are also some books, whose synopsis is enough for you to make you know that you have to read this book anyhow and S. happened to be one of them.
S. is a book within a book. It is love for marginalia. It is also bibliophile love. It is love towards authors and their lives and at the same time it is the crazy love for finding out more about an author. S. is all of that and more rolled into one crazy ride of a book.
The book is titled, “Ship of Theseus” by V.M. Straka and you wonder what just happened. Isn’t it meant to be written by Dorst and Abrams? But do not panic. This is the way the book is written. V.M. Straka is a prolific writer and Ship of Theseus is meant to be his last work. While being intellectual, Straka is also a loner. No one has ever seen him. No one knows him either besides his translator and perhaps publisher.
And then there are two readers, Jennifer and Eric, who have never met and communicate only through marginalia in the library book, “Ship of Theseus” speculating about the author, the story of the book, and in all of this, they unravel a lot more about themselves.
Then not to forget is the story of “Ship of Theseus” by Straka, which is the book you will also be reading, about a man lost at sea – who has lost his memory and is with monstrous sailors he does not know and cannot recall. Technically then, there are three stories running parallel and that can either drive you crazy as a reader or keep you wanting more.
The book is brilliantly designed. Ship of Theseus feels and smells like an old library book. There is a sticker on the spine categorizing the book. There are correspondences tumbling out of the book – letters, postcards, maps drawn on coffee house tissue papers, a puzzle, some more postcards and letters that do the rounds, back and forth between Straka and others, and also between Jennifer and Eric.
To begin with, the book might seem difficult to get into, but once you start, you will be hooked to it. The marginalia and reading the text together does take time, but for me that was the only way to do it. I had to read them in tandem, to understand the entire story and context. To me, the book was a rollercoaster ride, with Jen writing in the margin and Eric responding to those. The simple things add to the effect – the different coloured pens used, the writing, the underlining of lines, all of it make you think and relate to what you do as a reader. “S.” is one of those books that need not be begged to be read. An intelligent reader will read it anyway and give it its due.