The Kindle, the iPad, the Nook, the Cybook Opus, the Sony Reader, the iLiad—and now: Megan Fox’s right flank.
We’ve come to accept the fact that books are no longer just pages tied together. Just as we graduated from scrolls and tablets, we’re now in the process of graduating from paperbacks and hardcovers to more novel (pun intended) ways of presenting our texts. From storing entire libraries in a pocket-sized computer to encoding bacteria with poetry to programming machines that summarise, mash-up, read aloud and produce new texts, to print-on-demand and the immediate publishing that blogs offer—traditional books are no longer the only vehicles for poetry (or other texts), leaving traditional book publishers desperately clinging on to a past that’ll never come back. The “book” has been born again—but the world of literature (from authors to publishers to buyers) is still going through painful labour.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that the old book is dead, although there’ll probably be less of it around in ten years time. All the different vehicles for text, including the paperback and the hardcover, have their own value, their intrinsic qualities. Bacteria carrying poetry will probably outlive humanity. Storing text electronically takes a lot less space, doesn’t waste paper (although the reading gadgets are hardly ‘environmental’) and reduces the cost of distribution (fiscally and environmentally). Print-on-demand makes (almost) anything that can be printed publishable in book form, no matter the “marketability”. Blogs give us the chance to share text with lightning speed, making it easily accessible across the globe in a matter of seconds. And paperbacks and hardcovers feed our more fetishistic needs—reading as religion; personal libraries as shrines of knowledge, tributes to genius.
But until recently, we’ve not cracked the mystery of how to make sure that what we write will be read by millions, rather than just our devoted mothers. We’ve not had an obvious vehicle for this, the most desired quality of all: guaranteed success (short of printing our poetry in humongous letters on the moon, of course).
Enter: ultra vixen of oozifying sex appeal, smooth-skinned smorgasbord of poetry, mighty transformer of all our textual realities, Megan Fox.
The first poem to be published on the oh-so-popular body of Megan Fox was the somewhat traditional “Chinese symbol”—in this case “strength”—on the back of her head. From Chinese minimalism, she moved on to publishing a bit of Shakespeare: “We will all laugh at gilded butterflies” on her right shoulderblade. She followed up Shakespeare’s success with a bit of her own poesying: “there once was a little girl who never knew love until a boy broke her HEART” on her right flank. Last but not least, quite recently she added a mysterious line to her left flank: “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music”—variously attributed to Friedrich Nietszche, Jelaluddin Rumi, the 18th century mystic Rabbi Nachman, Henri Bergson, George Carlin or an “unknown” poet by the name of Angela Monet. But no matter who wrote it, there is no doubt whatsoever no poem was read as widely last week.
But just like the iPad or the Kindle, blogs or bacteria, Megan Fox, although a welcome addition to the plethora of poetic vehicles, is more of an addition to book culture than a replacement of it.