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.”