Last summer, I had the pleasure of having Çiğdem Y. Mirol as a guest speaker in my Introduction to Creative Writing Class. She spoke about her work, MyFace Book, which she calls a “bookperformance”—all one word. My students found Çiğdem’s talk quite interesting, most especially the idea that a full examination of the relationship between writer and reader requires a redefinition of the meaning of love. MyFace Book was not out in English at the time, but it is available now. The book was reviewed in Turkish by Süreyya Karacabey, who is a professor in the department of Theory and Theatre at Ankara University, Turkey. Karacabey’s review was published in Birgün Kitap. Here is a translation of that review. (The translator is Özge Wambach.)
Presentation of an Event: MyFace Book / Bookperformance
These two headlines bear the qualification of pointing to two fundamental characteristics of the book even before starting to read it. The first one alludes to what is related to the personal, and tells of perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the personal: the face. Yet, those who’ve read Levinas would know that “the true face is the denial of the face,” and selfhood becomes a problem when its seal consists of what belongs to me and what runs away from me. As for the second one, it is an objective entitling of the personal. While hinting at the epistemological existence of the book, it does something similar again; through the act of revelation, it ambiguates this very act itself: what actually is this thing called a bookperformance? If this introduction looks too inexplicit, let’s expand on it then.
In this text, about the work in hand, what should be done should actually not be an introducing a book but a presentation of an event. If introduction refers to what is written in the blank situated at the range of the relationship between the pre-defined /pre-identified and what accompanies it afterwards, then a discussion held on MyFace Book (Yüzüm Kitap, 2012), which established its unique existence on the banks of “just now” by deconstructing the categories concerning the genre fiction, shall at best become a presentation of an event.
In this work, as well, the point in question is clearly a narrative, through which people, objects, times, short stories and cases pass. The Speaker/Writer incorporates a technique, which we have been familiar with since the emergence of the avant-garde, in the texture of her narrative. This technique is one which places an emphasis on materiality. It is the explicit foregrounding of the elements composing a work, the disclosure of the means composing a work; thus, art not as a conclusion but as a process. In contrast with the conventions of the classical art (that promotes art as a signifier) it is a form in which the signified is liberated. It is just like a painting not presenting the receiver an object of contemplation but pointing to the characteristics of the wood, colors and the brush strokes it is made up of in this current phase of art. MyFace Book likewise broadens all the elements constituting the narrative at all leves and embraces them radically.
In this work, the radicalness of the emphasis put on the materiality of the material fastens the status of the text in a strange interspace, and the intention of the avant-garde is brought to a further state. I call this as extreme transparency, and something else occuring once this transparency has been carried to a radical line does constitute the undecidableness of the text. The fact that a transparency case constructs itself in the undecidable is a strange characteristic of the text, or a step to estrange a naturality.
While the book thematizes its own processuality and demonstrates the reader how it actually does this, it makes two planes in the narrative interpenetrate each other: 1) The processuality of the personality that is transmitted by the daily chronical as well as literary background of the person attempting to write the book 2) The processuality of the book that is transmitted by the narrative background presented to the reader.
The speaker of the narrative reminds us of the means of autobigraphy as genre while telling us of her own autorship process by stating the elements which she is composed of such as her memories, correspondences, friends, family, dreams and her essays she wrote before she attempted to become a professional in her writing career. She does continue her narrative by conjuring up the means of other literary genres, as well. Therefore, the narrative expands to another plane, which is established on the pluralistic facilities of narratives, by also involving a theoretical opening like how to write a book or what a narrative is. The book describing itself as “performance” already on the cover, but it does not confine itself to that, and creates its own manifesto explaining what is meant by “performance”. While constructing a processuality at all planes, the narrative also embodies the theorization of what is actually being constructed.
While doing all this, by demonstrating how it is doing all this, the book can be described as “theatrical”. It is theatrical, because the narrative time is stopped by the speaker at the very present between herself and the reader. The pieces of the past are always recalled from this very present and incorporated into the narrative right in front of the reader’s eyes.
“They said that everything could be read on my face, and maybe because everything is better read on my face, I wasn’t able to write to you. Thinking back, how could this be? There are some people in some places who talk about something like the conscious, the preconscious, the unconscious, and even the subconscious, and they say we need all these to be understood. I wonder if we have really been imprisoned within a single face. Have we been sentenced to this one face for centuries?”
We shall look through the transparency the book unwinds for us, but never be illisioned by appearances.
And here is a video of one of Çiğdem’s “book performances.”